A recent study has revealed a significant divide in healthcare utilization based on income in Sweden. According to the study published in the open access journal PLOS Medicine, individuals with the lowest incomes in Sweden are utilizing primary and outpatient care at similar rates to those with the highest incomes, despite having much higher mortality rates. The research, conducted by Pär Flodin and colleagues from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, sheds light on the persistent socioeconomic differences in healthcare utilization, even in countries with universal healthcare.
Sweden has seen a rise in income inequality in recent decades, accompanied by changes in the sociodemographic composition of the population and transformations in the healthcare system. The study aimed to understand the impact of these factors on healthcare utilization and mortality rates of Swedish individuals aged 16 and above from 2004 to 2017. Data on income, sociodemographic factors, healthcare utilization (primary, outpatient, and inpatient care), and mortality were analyzed.
The findings of the study revealed that individuals in the lowest income bracket utilized slightly more primary care and specialized outpatient care compared to those in the highest income bracket. The difference was marginal but statistically significant. Furthermore, individuals with the lowest incomes utilized significantly more inpatient care than those with higher incomes. The largest disparity was observed in mortality rates, with individuals in the lowest income bracket having a mortality odds ratio of 1.78 compared to those in the highest income bracket.
Interestingly, despite the increasing need for healthcare services indicated by the rising mortality rates, individuals in the lowest income bracket utilized a decreasing proportion of primary and outpatient care. This highlights the urgent need to ensure that healthcare resources are distributed equitably and that individuals in low-income groups are motivated to utilize primary and specialized care services. The study also noted that the disparities in healthcare utilization and mortality rates were most pronounced for neoplasms (tumors) and chronic respiratory diseases, while being less prominent for neurological disorders.
The authors of the study emphasize the importance of delivering healthcare in proportion to the needs of different income groups. They suggest that the health sector should focus on promoting motivated utilization of primary and specialized care among low-income individuals. This approach would not only help address the growing disparities in healthcare utilization but also ensure the efficient use of healthcare resources.
In conclusion, the study highlights the widening gap in healthcare utilization based on income in Sweden. Despite having higher mortality rates, individuals with low incomes are not accessing primary and outpatient care at the same rates as those with higher incomes. This calls for targeted efforts to promote equitable access to healthcare services and address the socioeconomic barriers that prevent low-income individuals from seeking necessary care.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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