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Non-use of health care service among empty-nest elderly in Shandong, China: a cross-sectional study

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BMC Health Services Research

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Background: Empty-nest elderly refers to those elderly with no children or whose children have already left home. Few studies have focused on healthcare service use among empty-nest seniors, and no studies have identified the prevalence and profiles of non-use of healthcare services among empty-nest elderly. The purpose of this study is to compare the prevalence of non-use of healthcare services between empty-nest and non-empty-nest elderly and identify risk factors for the non-use of healthcare services among empty-nest seniors.

Methods: Four thousand four hundred sixty nine seniors (60 years and above) were draw from a cross-sectional study conducted in three urban districts and three rural counties of Shandong Province in China. Non-visiting within the past 2 weeks and non-hospitalization in previous year are used to measure non-use of healthcare services. Chi-square test is used to compare the prevalence of non-use between empty-nesters and non-empty-nesters. Multivariate logistic regression analysis is employed to identify the risk factors of non-use among empty-nest seniors.

Results: Of 4469 respondents, 2667(59.7 %) are empty-nesters. Overall, 35.5 % of the participants had non-visiting and 34.5 % had non-hospitalization. Non-visiting rate among empty-nest elderly (37.7 %) is significantly higher than that among non-empty-nest ones (32.7 %) (P = 0.008). Non-hospitalization rate among empty-nesters (36.1 %) is slightly higher than that among non-empty-nesters (31.6 %) (P = 0.166). Financial difficulty is the leading cause for both non-visiting and non-hospitalization of the participants, and it exerts a larger negative effect on access to healthcare for empty-nest elderly than non-empty-nest ones. Both non-visiting and non-hospitalization among empty-nest seniors are independently associated with low-income households, health insurance status and non-communicable chronic diseases. The nonvisiting rate is also found to be higher among the empty-nesters with lower education and those from rural areas.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that empty-nest seniors have higher non-use rate of healthcare services than non-empty-nest ones. Financial difficulty is the leading cause of non-use of health services. Healthcare policies should be developed or modified to make them more pro-poor and also pro-empty-nested.

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