Digital healthcare company TELUS Health has published a report that reveals mental health and financial wellbeing in Australia is on a steep decline.
The financial wellbeing index (based on a survey of 1,000 Australian people) dropped in February to the lowest point since its inception, while the mental health index saw a 2.4 basis point decline from the start of the year, from 64.9 to 62.5
Nearly half of all Australians (45%) said they have felt overwhelmed by debt, and this group scored just 51.3 on the mental health index, approaching what TELUS Health calls 'distressed' levels.
Jamie MacLennan, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of APAC at TELUS Health, said the results were a clear demonstration of the toll that tough economic conditions are taking on Aussie's wellbeing, and urged the government to intervene.
"Financial wellbeing is highly correlated with mental wellbeing; as financial wellbeing improves, so do mental health scores. There’s a spotlight on Australians trying to plan their financial future amidst a cost of living crisis, rising interest and inflation rates, and the looming threat of recession," Mr MacLennan said.
"With accessibility and affordability remaining top barriers for Australians to access the mental health care they need, there’s a desperate need for government and businesses to step up and bridge the gaps causing inequality within the system."
Older Australians slashing medical costs
Cost of living pressures are also seeing many older Australians cut back on their healthcare spending, according to consumer research group Core Data.
An Australian seniors survey of 1,200 Australians aged 50 or older found nearly half (45%) have been forced to cut back on their medical spending.
The average respondent estimated their annual out of pocket healthcare costs were $1,586, and many have been forced into sacrificing some expenses.
This includes skipping or reducing dental check ups (23%), GP visits (14%) and specialist appointments (11%), as well as spending less on healthy food (21%).
Nearly two thirds (61%) of respondents were also concerned about their ability to cover unexpected medical expenses, the risk of which tends to increase with age.
Professor Emily Callander, Health Economist at University of Technology Sydney, said the long term consequences for the healthcare system could be severe.
“We may see that the over 50s skipping care now results in serious issues for the health care system in the future – as they may end up needing more complex care due to preventable conditions. Healthcare affordability is an individual issue for the over 50s, but also for the entire healthcare system and society in general that ultimately funds it”, Professor Callander said.
The survey also highlighted diminishing access to affordable care, with 71% of respondents agreeing it's getting harder to find doctors who offer sufficient bulk billing, or an affordable payment gap.
Nearly two thirds or 60% of Australians over 50 completely or largely reliant on Medicare to afford the treatment they need.
This survey data comes as $5.7 billion was announced for healthcare in the 2023 federal budget.
The government plans to triple the incentive paid to GPs to bulk bill consultations for families with children under 16 years old, pensioners and Commonwealth Concession card holders.
The budget also included a $824.4 million investment in digital health, as well as initiatives to have medical practices stay open longer and improve access to multidisciplinary care.
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