The aim of the study was to compare and analyse the differences in self-reported frequencies of visits paid to physicians and hospitalisation rates, as well as their association with socio-demographic factors and health status self-rated by elderly.
A cross-sectional study was performed in eight districts of five European countries (Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Croatia, and Greece). A total of 3540 persons aged 70 or more were interviewed by trained interviewers. Healthcare service utilisation and its association with demographic characteristics and self-rated health were analysed using descriptive statistical methods, chi-square test, and logistic regression.
Almost 90% of elderly visited a physician in the past year; 50% visited a specialist, while 24% were hospitalised. A visit to a specialist was paid by 70% of the Greek, 50% to 60% of the Croatian, and around 40% of the Irish, the Finnish, and the Swedish elderly. The highest proportion of hospitalisations (32%) was encountered in Greece and the lowest one (20%) in Sweden. Self-rated poor health appears to be the only common denominator associated with increased healthcare utilisation. Younger age stood out as a statistically significant predictor of the likelihood of specialist consults, while older age, male gender, and the synergy of male gender and current single life were disclosed as the predictors of hospitalisation frequency.
Healthcare service utilisation exercised by the elderly across European districts was found to be highly variable and showed a clear distinction between north-western and south-eastern Europe; this is in line with differences in self-rated health.