Medical Care Lacking for Women Without Transportation

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On average, four in five women receive regular preventative medical and dental care. However, many factors can impact women’s ability to be proactive about their health. For example, our 2024 Women’s Wellness Index finds that a higher share of single women without children follow routine medical prevention practices than mothers in nuclear families. Also, mothers are 62% more likely than single women to wait to seek medical care until a problem arises.

Not seeking preventative care can have consequences on women’s health outcomes and cost more when major medical issues crop up. This brief uncovers insights about women’s access to preventative healthcare by examining how transportation impacts their likelihood of obtaining care.

This is part of the “2024 Women’s Wellness Index,” a collaboration between PYMNTS Intelligence and CareCredit, a Synchrony solution. This edition draws on insights from a census-balanced survey of 10,045 U.S. consumers conducted from Nov. 10, 2023, to Dec. 6, 2023.



Key Findings

To access medical care, you have to get there

PYMNTS Intelligence data finds that women’s overall health and wellness outcomes are closely linked to how well they follow preventative health guidelines. For example, women who follow a preventative screening schedule very or extremely well have a 12% higher score in the Wellness Index than average. This indicates better health outcomes. In contrast, those who follow their schedule “not that well” scored 14% below average.

Many factors, such as parenting, household responsibilities and work, can limit women’s ability to manage their health.

A key part of getting routine medical care is having a way to get to medical appointments. This barrier can impede the 10% of U.S. women who lack access to transportation from proactively getting care. For example, women who do not have readily available transportation are 17% less likely to get preventative medical care. They are also 26% less likely to receive preventative dental care than women with vehicles or reliable public transportation.

Women with limited transportation access are 78% more likely than those with transportation access to wait to seek medical care until a problem arises. They are nearly twice as likely to wait to seek dental care until a problem occurs.

A toll on women’s health

If women cannot get to a medical appointment, they may skip it altogether. Our data finds that 83% of single women follow preventative screening guidelines. In contrast, just 71% of women in nuclear households who have others under their care do the same.

The cost of time and resources that a woman spends to access healthcare can increase if she lacks access to a personal vehicle or rides public transportation. Women with regular transportation hover just above the 2024 Woman’s Wellness Index score for the average American woman. Women who struggle with having transportation score 10% lower than the average woman on our health index, signifying worse health outcomes.

Generations and the inequality of getting a ride for medical care

Our data shows that women are more likely to have consistent transportation as they age. Among Gen Z women, the youngest cohort in our study, 16% lack access to transportation, leading all generations. Similarly, 14% of millennial women lack transportation.

Many young women are likely still living at home or are in college, and are developing financial independence. Because of this, they likely have the least need for their own vehicles and the least means to acquire them.

The variable need for a vehicle also impacts other demographic groups. For example, our data showed that women living in remote, rural areas are somewhat more likely to have their own vehicle than women in more commutable metropolitan areas. Likewise, single women are less likely to have regular transportation than women cohabitating with a partner, with or without children.

The ability to pay for a car service or a train ride also plays a role. For instance, our data finds that single mothers tend to have the least financial resources, and 13% do not have access to transportation. Women living alone and those cohabitating with or without children are more likely to have transportation access.

The ripple effects can affect the quality of mothers’ health and their children’s.

Conclusion

Although telemedicine has changed healthcare over the past decade, many medical appointments remain in-person. If a woman cannot transport herself to an in-person medical appointment, she receives no care. One in 10 women do not have regular access to transportation, limiting their ability to be proactive about their health, which can lead to worse health outcomes over time.

Supporting women in attending their in-person appointments can improve their health and reduce health expenses. Solutions such as rideshare programs and medical transportation services could aid women in getting the care they need. As dental care is particularly physical in nature and preventative dental care is more likely to be put off due to poor transportation, women could especially benefit from gaining transportation access to dental providers.

Of course, not all transportation solutions are one-way and require women to travel to providers. Bringing care closer to home, such as via telehealth, home visits by medical and wellness practitioners and in-home health lab kits, could help bridge the gap in women’s health. Increasing the range of appointment types and services that doctors offer remotely could help women get the care they need on a convenient and flexible schedule. In addition, access to home lab tests could help women participate in regular screening, gaining the benefits without the added stress of finding a way to a medical provider.

Methodology

The “2024 Women’s Wellness Index: Women’s Life Stage Priorities in Health and Wellness,” a PYMNTS Intelligence and CareCredit collaboration, is based on a survey of 10,045 U.S. consumers conducted from Nov. 10, 2023, to Dec. 6, 2023. The survey explored how women’s finances, time and social context impact their overall health and wellbeing. Our sample was census-balanced across a number of key demographic variables: The average respondent was 48 years old, 51% identified as women, 33% had college degrees and 38% reported incomes of $100,000 or more per year.


For more, read the May 2024 data brief, “New Data: Moms Prioritize Household Healthcare Over Their Own” or the full Index, “2024 Women’s Wellness Index: Women’s Life Stage Priorities in Health and Wellness.”

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