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How Equitable is Health Care Utilization Among Older Adults in Canada?


Although many of the financial barriers to accessing health care in Canada have been dismantled, there may exist other, socioeconomic barriers that result in inequitable utilization of health services. If true, such barriers may disproportionally affect older adults since this group is likely to be economically more vulnerable compared with the general population and is relatively more susceptible to disease and disability. This paper investigates the association between socioeconomic status and health services utilization for a sample of older adults (ages 65 and over) drawn from the public-use microdata files of the Canadian Community Health Survey for 2011 and 2012. The study includes controls for the individual’s health needs and health behaviour so that correlations between socioeconomic status and health care use are reflective of equity (or not) in access to health care. Results from the analysis suggest that socioeconomic standing is significantly associated with the utilization of services that involve a private component such as vision and dental care. For publicly insured services such as FP/GP visits, results vary by gender and by the measure of socioeconomic standing used for the analysis. For these services, results suggest that while socioeconomic standing is not significantly associated with visits to FP/GPs or overnight stays in hospitals for males, females who have a higher socioeconomic standing, have more ‘contact’ with their physician compared with females with a lower relative socioeconomic standing.

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Correspondence to Raaj Tiagi.

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Tiagi, R. How Equitable is Health Care Utilization Among Older Adults in Canada?. Population Ageing 9, 191–205 (2016).

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  • Older adults
  • Health care needs
  • Health utilization
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Health services utilization