The independent effect of age of general practitioner on clinical practice

Med J Aust. 2006 Jul 17;185(2):105-9. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2006.tb00485.x.


Objective: To establish the extent to which general practitioner age alone explains variations in patient morbidity and treatment patterns.

Setting: An on-going, national survey of general practice activity in Australia.

Participants: A random sample of 5013 GPs with a minimum of 375 general practice Medicare items claimed in the previous 3 months. Each GP contributed details of 100 consecutive encounters, with about 1000 GPs sampled each year between 1998 and 2003.

Main outcome measures: Effect of practitioner age on GP activity after removing the influence of measured confounding factors: doctor, patient and practice characteristics; number of problems; and morbidity managed at encounters.

Results: GP age played a significant role in practice style. In comparison with young GPs (< 35 years), older GPs provided more home visits (P < 0.001) and attendances at residential aged-care facilities (P = 0.044); were more likely to manage chronic problems (P < 0.001); had higher prescribing rates (P < 0.001), and lower rates of pathology ordering (P < 0.001) and non-pharmacological treatments (P < 0.001). Individual body system management rates also differed significantly between younger and older GPs.

Conclusion: A GP's age plays a significant role in determining practice style. Our results have implications in terms of the ageing GP population and in the wider context of the ageing medical labour force.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Australia
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Family Practice / trends*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*