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Close to one in two Australians aged over 50 are skipping regular dental and GP visits due to increased cost of living pressure, new data reveals.

The Australian Seniors survey found 45% of Australians aged over 50 had missed or reduced regular dental check-ups (23%), GP visits (14%), allied health services (13%) and specialist appointments (11%), along with purchasing fewer healthy ingredients for meals (21%).

The Cost of Health Report 2023 surveyed 1,200 Australians over 50 to uncover their attitudes towards healthy living, the associated costs, and the state of the public health system in 2022.

Paying for unexpected medical costs (61%), specialist doctors (50%), dental check-ups (43%), medicine (34%), and GP appointments (28%) were rated among the most concerning healthcare expenses.

Survey respondents estimated on average $1,586 in out-of-pocket healthcare expenses each year, totalling just over $14 billion annually nationwide.

University of Technology Sydney Health Economist Professor Emily Callander said affordability was an issue – with cost the reason for missed appointments.

“We may see that the over 50s skipping care now results in serious issues for the healthcare system in the future – as they may end up needing more complex care due to preventable conditions.”

“Healthcare affordability is an individual issue for the over 50s, but also for the entire healthcare system and society in general that ultimately funds it.”

As many as three in five (60%) survey respondents were completely or largely reliant on Medicare to fund their health treatments. Those reliant on Medicare cited doctor and specialist appointments (90%), diagnostic tests (63%), medication (57%), chronic disease management plans (22%), or mental healthcare plans (15%), as health costs they tend to rely on.

Among the over 50s community, close to half (49%) always used a bulk-billing GP, typically waiting seven days on average to get a GP appointment when needed. More than half (57%) of seniors in rural areas reported travelling some distance to find affordable bulk-billing GPs with acceptable wait times.

According to the findings, wait times for appointments and treatments (68%), emergency services/paramedics (66%), and the aged care system (63%) rated among the top issues of concern.