A community is much more than a group of people living in the same area. These people must have common interests and share similar values in order to be considered “strong.” According to a new study at Vanderbilt University, access to health care has a much stronger impact on a community than we think. With that being said, the lack of adequate health care is also responsible for tension in a community. Researchers at Vanderbilt further examined the social consequences that come with an uninsured majority. Tara McKay, an assistant professor at VU claims that “given the strain that uninsurance places on individuals, providers and health care markets, it is not unreasonable to imagine that the consequences of uninsurance are likely to go beyond health and health care and impact the social lives of individuals and communities.”
McKay and her colleagues looked into the Affordable Care Act and analyzed the health and well-being of neighborhoods in Los Angeles County. They found a 34% decrease in social cohesion scores when comparing a community with high levels of insurance compared to those with low levels. Access to health care strengthens a community in many ways, not just through health. Without obtaining proper health insurance, families are at a much higher risk for stress due to illnesses, debt, and unsafe conditions. They are likely less able to work as much, leading to overall unhealthy lifestyles.