Recession = extreme consumer cost-cutting?

empty-prescription-bottle-2001Two new reports this week suggest that consumers are cutting back on health spending – or opting to dole out cash for less pricey methods of bettering what ails them – because of tough economic times.

Sales of vitamins and nutritional supplements have surged in recent months. According to market research group Information Resources, sales of vitamins in the last three months of 2008 grew by nearly 8% compared with the same period a year earlier. Industry analysts said they’d seen the same transition – from mainstream to alterna-medicine – in previous economic downturns. Unfortunately, vitamins are not the same as prescription medications, and a natural grocer is not the same as a doctor, making the decision to sub one for the other a real health risk.

Last week, the LA Times reported that that 43 percent of Californians ages 50 and younger, in a survey conducted last month, said they had postponed care for a chronic health condition because of cost. Dental practices in California told the Times that business is down between 15 and 30 percent. Unfortunately, putting off medical tests or procedures can be dangerous – ER doctors are seeing more people whose chronic health problems have taken a turn for the worse after they postponed care.

Of all the things to cut back on – vacations, books, college funds, nose jobs – health should probably be last on the list. After all, if you’re dead, you won’t be able to enjoy the imminent ecomonic upswing I can see at the end of the tunnel…

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