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Inequities in health care utilization by people aged 50+: Evidence from 12 European countries


  • Terraneo, Marco


The aim of this study is to describe the magnitude of educational inequities in the use of health care services, by people aged 50+, in 12 European countries, controlling for country-level heterogeneity. We consider four services: having seen or talked to 1) a general practitioner (GP) or 2) specialist, 3) having been hospitalized, and 4) having visited a dentist (only for prevention). Data derived from the SHARE (Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe) project, a cross-national panel that collects information from individuals aged 50 and over. A Fixed Effects approach is applied, which is a valuable alternative to the application of conventional multilevel models in country-comparative analysis. The main findings of this study confirm that there is substantial educational inequity in the use of health care, although relevant differences arise between services. A clear pro-educated gradient is found for specialists and dentist visits, whereas no evidence of educational disparities was found for GP use. On the other hand, less clear results emerge regarding hospitalizations. However, the analysis shows that micro-level dimensions, i.e. individual needs and predisposing and enabling population characteristics, and macro level factors, i.e. health care system and welfare regime, interact to determine people's use of health services. It can be concluded that people with more education level have more resources (cognitive, communicative, relational) that allow them to make more informed choices and take more effective actions for their health goals, however, the institutional context may modify this relationship.

Suggested Citation

  • Terraneo, Marco, 2015. "Inequities in health care utilization by people aged 50+: Evidence from 12 European countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 154-163.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:126:y:2015:i:c:p:154-163
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.12.028

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    1. repec:eee:socmed:v:196:y:2018:i:c:p:115-122 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Sarti, Simone & Terraneo, Marco & Tognetti Bordogna, Mara, 2017. "Poverty and private health expenditures in Italian households during the recent crisis," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 121(3), pages 307-314.
    3. David Cantarero-Prieto & Marta Pascual-Sáez & Carla Blázquez-Fernández, 2018. "Does social isolation affect medical doctor visits? New evidence among European older adults," Working Papers. Collection B: Regional and sectoral economics 1805, Universidade de Vigo, GEN - Governance and Economics research Network.


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