Young adults in the U.S. are sacrificing their health, falling in debt and finding it harder to contribute to their retirement savings, according to a survey by the Nationwide Retirement Institute.

The survey findings also reveal that 58% of older adults are “terrified” of what health care costs may do to their retirement plans and 67% are “most stressed” about an unanticipated decline in health.

Despite these concerns, the survey revealed that adults today are not necessarily taking actions to prioritize health care and financial wellness.

The findings were the result of two separate online surveys conducted by Edelman Intelligence among 1,000 U.S. adults ages 25 through 45, or "younger adults"; and by The Harris Poll among 1,462 U.S. adults ages 50 or older with investable assets of $50K or more who are retired or plan to retire in the next 10 years, or "older adults."

The data showed that health-care expenses are significantly impacting the lives of younger adults. One in five report health care expenses as having had extreme impact on their wellbeing, causing them to skip getting care (48%), go into debt (38%), stop saving money for discretionary purchases (43%), not get needed medicine (33%), find it harder to contribute as much as they would like to a 401(k) retirement account (31%) or to file for bankruptcy (13%).

Moreover, almost three in four younger adults indicated that they have taken “risky” actions to save money on medical related expenses. Thirty-three percent have delayed seeking medical help with the hopes the condition will subside; 27% considered not seeking care to avoid high deductibles; 22% skipped a scheduled appointment to avoid a medical bill; 22% took less than the recommended dosage to extend the length of a prescription; 21% stopped taking a prescription because it cost too much; and 20% did not follow treatment plan recommended by doctor (physical therapy, etc.).

“The financial barriers to affording health care can be overwhelming; however, many adults don't realize there are a number of ways to lessen the financial burden,” said John Carter, president of Nationwide Retirement Plans and president and chief operating officer-elect of Nationwide Financial, in released comments. “In fact, there are tools, employer programs and resources that can help consumers prioritize their health, remove cost barriers and best provide insight into how to address concerns,” he said.

The report suggested that consumers can lessen the burden of health care costs in and out of retirement by taking low-cost easy actions such as prioritizing preventative care, taking advantage of an HSA, participating in employer programs or working with a financial advisor.

It pointed to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision that requires private insurance plans to cover recommended preventive services without any patient cost sharing, in an effort to improve health and remove cost barriers. Still, only half of younger adults have had a physical or well-check and 45% have had preventive screening such as blood pressure, cholesterol or body mass index in the past year, the report noted.

Further, nearly two in three have not had a flu shot or other immunization in the past year, the report showed, adding that 31% of younger adults are not able to provide a good reason why they don't get preventative care, while 22% cite cost and 18% said they don’t have the time.

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