Recessions always lead to cutbacks, but one cut surprised researchers. The recent recession predictably led employers to cut jobs and people to cut discretionary spending. Other “cuts” that increased in frequency during the recession included vasectomies.
Urologists reported anecdotally that more men were requesting vasectomies in 2007 to 2009 than their practices previously experienced. Now a study showed there actually was a sharp increase during the economic downtown in the numbers of men in the U.S. who underwent vasectomy procedures, according to a team from Weill Cornell Medical College. While the exact cause of the uptick was not proven to be economic, the timing seems to establish the hypothesis.
The researchers went through U.S. survey data garnered by the federally funded National Survey for Family Growth. They has interviewed over 10,000 men between 2006 and 2010 to get a sense of how the economy affected their thoughts about and plans to have kids, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Before the recession began, the data showed that 3.9 percent of those surveyed reported that they had undergone a vasectomy. By the end of the economic slump, 4.4 percent of the men reported having one. The researchers used this data to calculate that approximately 150,000 to 180,000 more vasectomies than normal were done each year during the recession. The complete study was presented Monday at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Honolulu,
Previous studies found correlation between decreases in median incomes and vasectomy rate increases. This study, however, did not rely on data on the surgical procedures gathered from medical centers or regional information like the earlier work. It included data throughout the country.
While there is no proof that financial worries during the recession drove men to make cuts including vasectomies, there was a noted decline in U.S. birth rates during the and right after the recession. Both figures suggest that couples put off have children or decide not to have any more during bad economic times.
In addition, the researchers reportedly found that men were less likely to be employed full-time by the end of the recession. They were also more likely to have seen drops in their incomes and many were now without health insurance. The men still had a desire to experience fatherhood, but those interviewed after the economic downturn began improving indicated they now wanted fewer children or, if they already were fathers, decided not to have any more offspring.
Furthermore, the idea that men’s interest in having a vasectomy may vary based on economic factors is also impacted by costs for sterilization procedures. A vasectomy is a cost-effective “permanent” way to prevent pregnancy. (If a man changes his mind later, a reversal of the procedure is possible.) According to a 2012 study, vasectomies had an average cost of $708. The female sterilization method – tubal ligation – is a more complicated surgery. Cost wise, tubal ligations have an average cost of $2,912 and can run considerably higher in some areas or if there are complications.
These figures and the economic impact predate the Affordable Care Act, which could change the picture in any future recessionary periods. Changes in out-of-pocket costs and insurance affordability would not encourage recession cuts that included vasectomies. Insurance policies now cover women’s contraceptives and sterilization, but do not cover vasectomies.
By Dyanne Weiss