Half of US adults skip common health screenings, including tests for certain diseases, survey finds

Americans are likely to skip important health screenings, and women have a less positive outlook than men regarding their current and future health prospects, according to a survey released by Aflac.

The survey, based on about 2,000 employed adults, examined attitudes, habits and opinions about health and preventive care and found that half of adults have avoided at least one common health screening. These screenings include tests for certain diseases.

But for the 51% of respondents who said they have had cancer, that diagnosis came following a routine checkup or screening. For Hispanic survey respondents, 72% of individuals said a diagnosis was discovered at a routine checkup.

Skipping regular checkups is common among individuals who feel healthy. One in 4 respondents said they miss routine checkups. Reasons cited include a conflict with work hours, the individuals are “not thinking about it,” a general dislike for going to the doctor’s office, insurance issues, fear of hearing bad news and the time commitment required.

Young people were least likely to take advantage of regular checkups. Just 40% of Generation Z respondents (aged 18-24) said they believe preventive care is important to overall health, but that number rose to 49% for millennials. Gen Z also reported they felt least in control of their mental and physical health.  

While men had an overall stronger view of their current health status and the ability to control it in the future, only 38% of women had a positive outlook about their weight and BMI. Just 40% of female respondents felt positively about their financial health.

"The results of the Wellness Matters survey put a spotlight on the need for individuals to have a more proactive approach to their health care," said Tom Morey, chief actuary of Aflac U.S., in a news release. "That is why Aflac is encouraging policyholders and others to take control of their health by building good health habits early, asking health and insurance providers questions, and prioritizing routine wellness checkups."

Among Hispanic survey respondents, 31% reported language is a barrier to accessing preventive care resources, leading to 72% of respondents saying they have avoided a wellness screening. And 61% of Hispanic respondents also agree that healthcare providers and organizations need to better educate the Latino community on why it’s important to be proactive with health and wellness.

Internal Aflac data show that its cancer wellness benefit claims dropped in 2022 compared to 2019. For every 1,000 Aflac policyholders, cancer policy wellness claims dropped 11% for those in their 20s and 9% for those in their 30s.