Purpose: To assess utilization of eye care services in an older Australian population.
Methods: The Blue Mountains Eye Study examined 3654 permanent residents aged 49 years or older from two New South Wales postcode areas. At interview, we collected information about past attendance to eye care practitioners, demographic and socio-economic status variables and past medical and eye history. Full-time optometric and part-time ophthalmic services were available in this community.
Results: Almost all participants (99%) had seen either an ophthalmologist or optometrist in the past, with 62, 27, 7 and 3% having last attended in the last 2, 2-5, 5-10 and > 10 years, respectively. Among those participants (2251) who had been seen in the last 2 years, 50.2% (1131) last saw an ophthalmologist, 48.6% (1094) last saw an optometrist and 26 (1.2%) could not state whom they saw. After adjusting for age and sex, factors statistically significantly associated with attending an ophthalmologist included older age, female gender, higher socio-economic status, moderate to high myopia and presence of systemic disease (diabetes, hypertension) or any significant eye pathology. Factors statistically significantly associated with attending an optometrist were younger age, living alone, not currently married, being able to go out alone, having better presenting visual acuity, hyperopia and absence of diabetes or significant eye pathology, including moderate to high myopia.
Conclusions: Findings from this study indicate that whether people use eye care services and whom they visit is mainly driven by need factors. Although there was considerable overlap, this study found relatively appropriate utilization of eye care services by this population.