Estimating the Costs of Medicalization

Department of Sociology, MS-71, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454, United States.
Social Science [?] Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.89). 03/2010; 70(12):1943-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.02.019
Source: PubMed


Medicalization is the process by which non-medical problems become defined and treated as medical problems, usually as illnesses or disorders. There has been growing concern with the possibility that medicalization is driving increased health care costs. In this paper we estimate the medical spending in the U.S. of identified medicalized conditions at approximately $77 billion in 2005, 3.9% of total domestic expenditures on health care. This estimate is based on the direct costs associated with twelve medicalized conditions. Although due to data limitations this estimate does not include all medicalized conditions, it can inform future debates about health care spending and medicalization.

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    • "The focus on adverse events to the exclusion of measures of health and wellbeing is occurring in parallel with an increasing tendency to classify some normal life events as potential sources of ill-health [4]. This is part of a process in which the term 'medicalisation' is increasingly used pejoratively to denote the overuse of routine technical and pharmacological interventions without scientific evidence of their benefits [4]. In some cases, these interventions increase the occurrence of unwanted outcomes. "
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