Objective: To study potential changes in attendance at emergency departments (ED) in Reykjavík immediately following the swift economic meltdown in Iceland in October 2008.
Methods: Using electronic medical records of the National University Hospital in Reykjavík, a population-based register study was conducted contrasting weekly attendance rates at Reykjavík ED (cardiac and general ED) during 10-week periods in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The weekly number of all ED visits (major track), with discharge diagnoses, per total population at risk were used to estimate RR and 95% CI of ED attendance in weeks 41-46 (after the 2008 economic collapse) with the weekly average number of visits during weeks 37-40 (before the collapse) as reference.
Results: Compared with the preceding weeks (37-40), the economic collapse in week 41 2008 was associated with a distinct increase in the total number of visits to the cardiac ED (RR 1.26; 95% CI 1.07 to 1.49), particularly among women (RR 1.41; 95% CI 1.17 to 1.69) and marginally among men (RR 1.15; 95% CI 0.96 to 1.37). A similar increase was not observed in week 41 at the general ED in 2008 or in either ED in 2007 or 2006. In week 41 2008, visits with ischaemic heart disease as discharge diagnoses (ICD-10: I20-25) were increased among women (RR 1.79; 95% CI 1.01 to 3.17) but not among men (RR 1.07; 95% CI 0.71 to 1.62).
Conclusion: The dramatic economic collapse in Iceland in October 2008 was associated with an immediate short-term increase in female attendance at the cardiac ED.