Journal of Public Health

, 15:377 | Cite as

Healthcare utilization of overweight and obese Europeans aged 50–79 years

  • I. Peytremann-BridevauxEmail author
  • B. Santos-Eggimann
Original Article


To examine the association between overweight/obesity and healthcare utilization in middle-aged and aged Europeans. This is a baseline cross-sectional analysis of self-reported data from ten countries participating in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), which reached an overall response rate of 62%. Included in the study were 16,695 non-institutionalized individuals aged 50–79 years with body mass indexes (BMI) ≥18.5 kg/m2. We used height and weight to compute BMI and categorized it into normal weight (BMI 18.5–24.9 kg/m2), overweight (BMI 25.0–29.9 kg/m2) and obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2). Dichotomous measures of healthcare utilization during the previous 12 months included any use of ambulatory care, high use of a general practitioner, visits to specialists, high use of medication, hospitalization, high number of times hospitalized and nights spent in the hospital, surgery, home healthcare and domestic help. Logistic regressions adjusted for age, socio-economic status, smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption, country of residence, and chronic conditions. All analyses were stratified by gender. Among men and women, being overweight or obese was associated with a significantly increased risk of using ambulatory care and visiting general practitioners, as well as taking ≥2 medication categories. Those relationships were only partially explained by chronic conditions. Obese women were at increased risk and overweight men at decreased risk of hospitalization. For men, exploring other hospitalization dimensions did not reveal significant associations, however. Men and women, whether overweight or obese, did not report higher use of specialists, surgery, home healthcare or domestic help. For all outcomes, similar trends were found at the country level. Population-attributable fractions were highest for medication use, both for men (23%) and women (19%). Despite the rising prevalence of obesity and aging of the population, findings from SHARE show that overweight and obesity place a moderate burden on European healthcare systems, mostly by increasing ambulatory care and medication use.


Obesity Overweight Healthcare utilization Population-based study 



This paper uses data from the early release 1 of SHARE 2004. This release may contain errors that will be corrected in later releases. The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the 5th framework program (project QLK6-CT-2001-00360 in the thematic program Quality of Life). Additional funding came from the US National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, Y1-AG-4553-01 and OGHA 04-064). Data collection in Austria (through the Austrian Science Fund, FWF), Belgium (through the Belgian Science Policy Office) and Switzerland (through BBW/OFES/UFES) was nationally funded. The SHARE data set was introduced in Börsch-Supan et al. (2005); methodological details are contained in Börsch-Supan and Jürges (2005).

Conflict of interest statement

Both authors affirm that there is no actual or potential conflict of interest in relation to this article and no financial interest/arrangement with one or more organizations that could be perceived as a real or apparent conflict of interest in the context of the subject of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Services Research Unit, Institute of Social and Preventive MedicineUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Health Economics and ManagementUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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