Socio-economic status and visits to physicians by adults in Ontario, Canada

J Health Serv Res Policy. 1997 Apr;2(2):94-102. doi: 10.1177/135581969700200207.


Objectives: To examine the association between socio-economic status, need for medical care and visits to physicians in a universal health insurance system.

Methods: Cross-sectional analysis of the 1990 Ontario Health Survey, a population-based survey utilizing a multi-stage, randomized cluster sample. The analysis considered only those respondents who were 16 years of age or older from the province of Ontario, Canada: 21,272 males and 24,738 females.

Results: There was no difference by education or income in persons having made at least one visit to a general practitioner in the previous year. High income persons were less likely to have made six or more visits to a general practitioner--odds ratio (OR) = 0.67, 95% CI = 0.52, 0.87 for men; OR = 0.66, 95% CI = 0.58, 0.75 for women--but more likely to have made at least one visit to a specialist--OR = 1.42, 95% CI = 1.15, 1.76 for men; OR = 1.25, 95% CI = 1.07, 1.45 for women. A person's need for medical care was the most important determinant of a physician visit.

Conclusions: Self-reported visits to general practitioners in Canada are strongly influenced by a person's need for medical care and are appropriately related to socio-economic status. However, there is a residual association between higher socio-economic levels and greater use of specialist services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Data Collection
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / economics
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine
  • Middle Aged
  • Office Visits / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Social Class*
  • Specialization
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Utilization Review