Most American households carry debt, yet we have little understanding of how debt influences health behavior, especially health care seeking. We examined associations between foregone medical care and debt using a population-based sample of 914 southeastern Michigan residents surveyed in the wake of the late-2000s recession. Overall debt and ratios of debt to income and debt to assets were positively associated with foregoing medical or dental care in the past 12 months, even after adjusting for the poorer socioeconomic and health characteristics of those foregoing care and for respondents' household incomes and net worth. These overall associations were driven largely by credit card and medical debt, while housing debt and automobile and student loans were not associated with foregoing care. These results suggest that debt is an understudied aspect of health stratification.
Keywords: SES; credit card; debt; foregone care; medical debt; stratification.