The recessionary, sluggish U.S. economy has had an impact on Americans’ mental and physical health. The least healthy citizens have experienced a disproportionately hard hit on their health and health care.

But necessity being the mother of invention, some people are re-inventing their personal workflows in health care — and many of these tactics may well benefit their health in the long run.

The Economy and Health: 10 Observations is the analysis from Euro RSCG‘s survey of U.S. adults’ views on their personal health in light of the continued economic downturn. The first chart shows the economy’s impact on the overall mood of Americans. Note that Euro RSCG segments health consumers as “Prosumers” and “Non-Prosumers.” Prosumers are influential, demanding consumers who are the vanguard, adopting new services and technology before the tipping point.

The 10 observations are that:

  1. A negative mood is on the rise among U.S. health citizens
  2. Health is mixed, with 15% of people worse-off in the past year and 22% better
  3. Economic and financial news has made one-third of people anxious overall — with 51% of those in fair or poor health feeling more anxious, and 23% more hopeless (twice the rate of the overall population)
  4. 32% of people feel more resourceful in the past year due to the bad economic news, compared with 23% of people in fair/poor health
  5. One-half of U.S. adults are curbing household spending to afford medication, including cutting back on dining out, entertainment, spending on luxury items, and making big-ticket purchases. 67% of those in fair/poor health are spending less to pay for meds.
  6. Health consumers are also looking for affordable alternatives for prescription drugs due to their financial situations, such as switching to cheaper substitutes, reducing the frequency of taking their Rx’s, and stopping medications
  7. People are also reducing their frequency of seeing the doctor as a result of their finances; 31% of people overall have cut medical consultation costs through reducing their visits, stopping consultations, “upping” self-diagnosis, and switching to cheaper alternatives
  8. When they forecast the next year or two of health, 11% believe their health will deteriorate, and 26% expect their health to improve. For those in fair/poor health, 33% expect their health to deteriorate
  9. Nearly one-half of U.S. adults expect their financial situation to stay the same over the next year or two; for those in fair/poor health, only 34% expect their finances to stay the same, with an equal number expecting personal financial deterioration
  10. Most Americans look for more support from their prescription drug providers due to the economic downturn, such as couponing and sampling, and support for adherence.

Euro RSCG is part of HAVAS, the global communications group. The firm surveyed 750 U.S. online adults in August 2011. The sample had a median age of 44.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: The second chart illustrates how people are adopting consumer shopping behaviors when it comes to health care: in this case, after identifying cheaper prescription drug alternatives, what else can a pharmaceutical manufacturers and marketers do to serve the end-user customer, the patient? Here, it’s coupons and samples, call centers, support groups, and adherence support programs that are particularly interesting to people who need them most — those in fair or poor health. More of those in good health are interested in reminder emails and text messages for refills, which may also be a function of adoption of those technologies in peoples’ daily lives beyond the health sphere.

Of particular note here is the 23% of consumers in fair or poor health interested in being introduced to support groups related to my condition. This gets to the social aspect of health and the growing recognition that “people like me” can help “me” support my own health. As people are taking on more financial responsibility for their health care, they’re taking on more clinical and self-help roles. Note that 13% of those in fair/poor health “upped self-diagnosis to save money” compared with 7% of the overall population.

Thus, while the downtrodden economy has motivated self-rationing in health in the U.S., some people are taking more responsibility on their own, and in leaning on other patient-mentors for support. Welcome to the post-recession era of shopping and social in health.