Unmet social needs among Medicaid members lead to stress, chronic conditions

A survey of Medicaid members found that increasing levels of unmet social needs were positively associated with stress, smoking and chronic conditions, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Scientists, led by Tess Thompson, research assistant professor, analyzed data from 1,214 online surveys from Medicaid members about social needs, demographics, and health-related and psychosocial outcomes.

The most common unmet needs were lack of money for unexpected expenses in the next month and not enough space in the home. About two-thirds of participants reported one or more unmet needs.


In addition to the links to health, the results showed that participants with higher levels of unmet needs reported worse health, as well as fewer days of exercise per week and fewer daily servings of fruits or vegetables.

The study, “Social Needs and Health-Related Outcomes Among Medicaid Beneficiaries” was published in the journal Health Education & Behavior.

The findings have implications for practice and show the benefits of helping people with Medicaid meet social needs at a time when resources for doing so may be lacking in many communities, Thompson said.

“To promote a wide range of positive health-related outcomes, public health practitioners and health professionals should advocate for increased support resources at local, state and federal levels,” she said. “Our work adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests increasing such resources holds potential to improve the health of low-income people.”

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