Medical bills drive many personal bankruptcies in the U.S., according to a survey by a Harvard University team analyzing 1,771 cases in 2001. Its report appeared online February 2 in the journal Health Affairs.

Number of Americans who filed for bankruptcy in 2001: 1,458,000

Percent of bankruptcies involving any medical cause: 54.5

Percent caused specifically by*:

Illness or injury: 28.3

Medical bills over $1,000: 27

Loss of work income for medical reasons: 21.3

New family member: 7.7

Death in family: 7.6

Alcohol or drug addiction: 2.5

Mortgage to pay medical bills: 2

Uncontrolled gambling: 1.2

Percent of debtors who had insurance at outset of illness: 75.7

Percent of medical debtors who, before going bankrupt:

Skipped doctor/dentist visit: 59.5

Failed to fill a prescription: 46.7

*Some respondents cited more than one specific cause.