Context: Despite theoretical concerns that health care related distrust may lead to poor health outcomes by interfering with effective health care, little is currently known about the prevalence or outcomes of distrust of the health care system in the United States.
Objective: To investigate the association between distrust of the health care system and self-reported health status among the general population in the United States.
Design: Random-digit-dialing telephone survey.
Participants: Nine hundred and sixty-one adult residents of the continental U.S.
Primary measures: Distrust of the health care system and self-reported health status.
Results: Distrust of the health care system is relatively high in the United States, with between 20% and 80% of respondents reporting distrust for each item on the Health Care System Distrust scale and a median scale score of 31 (potential range from 10 to 50). Distrust of the health care system is strongly associated with self-reported fair/poor health (odds ratio [OR] 1.40%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.12 to 1.75 for each standard deviation increase in distrust), even after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, access to health care and trust in primary physicians. In contrast, low trust in one's primary physician is much lower (only 10% to 20% of respondents reported distrust for each item) and is not associated with health status.
Conclusions: Distrust of the health care system is relatively high in the general population in the United States and is strongly associated with worse self-reported health. Further studies are needed to assess the direction of this association and the mechanisms involved.