Background: The aim of the study was to examine gender differences in the self-reported use of health care services by the elderly in rural and metropolitan areas of two Nordic countries with slightly different health care systems: Finland and Norway.
Methods: Population based, cross-sectional surveys conducted in Nord-Tröndelag Norway (1995-97) and in rural and metropolitan areas of Finland (1997) were employed. In the Norwegian data, a total of 7,919 individuals, aged 65-74 years old were included, and the Finnish data included 1,500 individuals. The outcome variables comprised whether participants had visited a general practitioner or a specialist, or had received hospital care or physiotherapy during the past 12 months. Gender differences in the use of health care services were analysed by multiple logistic regression, controlling for health status and socio-demographic characteristics.
Results: In Norway, elderly women visited a specialist or were hospitalised less often than men. In Finland, elderly women used all health care services except hospital care more often than men. In Norway, less frequent use of specialist care by women was not associated with self-reported health or chronic diseases.
Conclusion: The findings revealed differences in self-reported use of secondary care among different genders in areas of Norway and Finland.