Financial Burden on Portuguese Households: Dental Care and Medicines Pose Heavy Expenses, 2022 Survey Reveals

A significant portion of households in Portugal faced a heavy financial burden when it came to expenditures on dental care and medicines in 2022, according to the findings of the 2022 Survey on Living Conditions and Income. The survey revealed that approximately half of the households experienced financial strain due to these essential healthcare expenses.

The survey highlighted that 75.5% of the population aged 16 and over sought consultation with a general practitioner in the 12 months preceding the interview. While this figure showed a decline of 5.8 percentage points compared to 2017, it indicated that a majority of the population sought primary healthcare services.

Regarding dental care, only 57.4% of respondents reported visiting a dentist or orthodontist during the same period. Although this figure represented an improvement compared to 2017 (53.4%), it still indicated a gap in accessing dental services.

Furthermore, 52.5% of respondents consulted other medical or surgical specialists, excluding dentists, orthodontists, and general practitioners, within the 12-month period prior to the interview. This proportion was slightly lower than the estimate for 2017 (53.1%).

Gender disparities were observed in healthcare utilization, with women reporting higher rates of medical appointments. Approximately 80.6% of women sought consultations with general practitioners, 59.7% visited dental care providers, and 57.8% consulted other medical specialists. In comparison, 69.8% of men sought general practitioner consultations, 54.8% visited dental care providers, and 46.6% consulted other medical specialists.

While access to general practice consultations did not significantly differ between the population at risk of poverty and those not at risk, over half of the population at risk of poverty did not have any dental care or other medical specialist appointments within the 12-month period.

The survey also revealed the financial burden faced by households regarding medical expenses. In 2022, 45.8% of households considered medical care expenses to be somewhat burdensome or a heavy burden, with 49.7% reporting the same for medicines and 51.7% for dental care. Although these proportions decreased compared to 2017 (48.4%, 54.5%, and 54.7% respectively), the financial strain persisted, especially in the case of medicines. Notably, households at risk of poverty reported higher negative assessments of the financial burden of dental care (59.4% of at-risk-of-poverty households) and medicines (61.6% of at-risk-of-poverty households).

The survey also provided insights into other aspects of the population’s health and lifestyle habits. More than half of the adult population was found to be overweight (37.3%) or obese (15.9%), while 80.2% consumed fruit daily, and 63.3% consumed salads or vegetables at least once a day. Additionally, nearly half of the population engaged in regular physical activity at least once a week. However, daily tobacco use was reported by 14.1% of the population.

Food insecurity was also assessed, with 4.1% of the resident population in Portugal experiencing moderate and/or severe food insecurity in 2022. This figure showed a slight decrease compared to 2021 (4.3%) and 2019 (4.7%).

The findings of the survey shed light on the financial challenges faced by households in accessing essential healthcare services, particularly dental care and medicines. The survey results underline the importance of addressing these issues to ensure equitable access to healthcare and alleviate the financial burden on households.