Healthcare utilisation among the Belgian elderly in relation to their socio-economic status
Objectives To analyse the association between healthcare utilisation of elderly persons (65 and over) in Belgium in terms of contacts with GP or specialist and the socio-economic indicators household income, highest educational level within the household, and housing tenure.Methods A cross-sectional study based on 4494 non-institutionalised elderly participants in the Belgian Health Interview Surveys of 2001 and 2004. Socio-economic gradients in contacts (yes or no) with a GP or specialist were explored, based on the socio-behavioural model of Andersen, a conceptual framework that includes the most important determinants of healthcare utilisation. Three multivariate models were constructed using multiple logistic regression.Results After adjustment for age, sex, health status (self-assessed health, functional restrictions, and comorbidity), region, and living situation, initial differences in contacts with a GP and specialist between the different socio-economic groups disappeared among the elderly. On the other hand, contacts with a specialist remain dependent on SES in the younger population.Conclusions Adjustment for the determinants of healthcare utilisation among the Belgian elderly nullified the socio-economic gradients in contacts with a GP and specialist that initially existed. The results point to a potential link with the Belgian social and health policy.
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