Jeff Angileri
Aug 8, 2009, 10:37 PM

It is an alarming trend across the country -- Americans are neglecting their health, and the poor economy is to blame.

With thousands of people losing their jobs, and subsequently their insurance, health care in America is taking a bruising.

"Patients come in with headaches, they may come in with abdominal pains. And as I'm talking about stresses in their life, that's usually the first thing they bring up," said Dr. Alan Schwartzstein, Dean Health System. "They just got laid off, financial things are not going so well. They wanted to retire, now they can't, and they were supposed to."

According to a survey by the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, 54 percent of doctors are seeing fewer patients; 73 percent are seeing an increase patients who don't have insurance.

And a whopping 90 percent say patients are coming in with significant stress symptoms.

"Our surgeons say people are not coming in for as many elective procedures as they used to because of the economy," said Dr. Schwartzstein.

Many health care providers are trying to adapt to patients' economic woes. Two-thirds of doctors are discounting their fees, providing free health screenings, and switching patients to less expensive generic prescriptions.

Doctors fear if patients don't come in when they should, injuries, illness and diseases could get worse.

"On top of that, if it's a disease like depression, where people get very hopeless about things, we always get concerned about them taking unfortunate actions," Dr. Schwartzstein said.

Schwartzstein says people should focus on things they can control.

"If they have a hobby they can do, or a garden to work on, if they get laid off, this is an opportunity to do things they've been putting off -- make sure they're relaxing, exercising, eating healthy -- all these things will help until the economy turns around."

Most health care providers have programs to help people pay their medical bills.

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Dean Health System