Background: We used case-control design to compare utilization of health and social services between older decedents and survivors, and to identify the respective impact of age and closeness of death on the utilization of services.
Methods: Data were derived from multiple national registers. The sample consisted of 56,001 persons, who died during years 1998-2000 at the age of > or = 70, and their pairs matched on age, gender and municipality of residence, who were alive at least 2 years after their counterpart's death. Data include use of hospitals, long-term care and home care. Decedents' utilization within 2 years before death and survivors' utilization in the same period of time was assessed in three age groups (70-79, 80-89 and > or = 90 years) and by gender.
Results: Decedents used hospital and long-term care more than their surviving counterparts, but the time patterns were different. In hospital care the differences between decedents and survivors rose in the last months of the study period, whereas in long-term care there were clear differences during the whole 2-year period. The differences were smaller in the oldest age group than in younger age groups.
Conclusion: Closeness of death is an important predictor of health and social service use in old age, but its influence varies between age groups. Not only the changing age structure, but also the higher average age at death affects the future need for services.