Care or Not Care—that is the Question: Predictors of Healthcare Utilisation in Relation to Employment Status




International research shows that there is a higher use of care among the unemployed than among the employed, although the findings on the association between unemployment and healthcare use are not conclusive.


To examine the association between healthcare use and employment status and the factors influencing this relationship.


During 2002, a questionnaire was sent to 1,000 persons who had recently registered as unemployed (participation rate: n = 570) and to a sample of 1,000 persons representing the Swedish population (participation rate: n = 641). The study design was cross-sectional. Persons still unemployed or otherwise not employed (n = 416) were compared with the employed (n = 414) using logistic regression analyses.


About half of those in the unemployed group had contacted a physician. The unemployed were also more likely to have needed but not sought care. Being in the unemployed group was a statistically significant risk factor for reporting unmet care needs, after adjusting for sociodemographic factors (OR = 1.53). The risk of abstaining from seeking care did not persist when considering economy and social network. Among those with unmet care needs, there was still a higher risk in the unemployed group of reporting: a small social network (OR = 2.73), economic hardship (OR = 2.87) and symptoms of depression (OR = 2.04).


Unemployment is a risk factor for both contacting a physician and for unmet care needs. A low social network and economic hardship are more present among persons who abstain from seeking healthcare and seem to be more common among the unemployed. The healthcare system should also be aware of the fact that some unemployed people with symptoms of depression abstain from seeking care.


Unemployment Healthcare utilisation Unmet care needs Symptoms of depression Social network Economic hardship 



The study was supported by grants from the Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation and the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research. All the authors contributed to the conception of the study. AÅ participated in the design of the study, analysis, and writing of the article. GB participated in the design, interpretation, and drafting of the manuscript. RW participated in the design, interpretation, analysis, and drafting of the manuscript.

The manuscript has not been published elsewhere and it has not been submitted simultaneously for publication elsewhere. However, the manuscript is based on a study preliminarily reported in the doctoral thesis: “Health and HealthCare Utilisation among the Unemployed” at Uppsala University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, 2006.


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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annika Åhs
    • 1
  • Gunilla Burell
    • 1
  • Ragnar Westerling
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Social MedicineUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

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