Objectives: To explore the existence of socioeconomic differences in probability and intensity of general practitioner (GP) and specialist contacts among the Belgian elderly population, compared with the younger population.
Methods: A nationally representative cross-sectional study based on 4,825 older (≥65) and 14,738 younger participants (<65) in the Belgian Health Interview Surveys 2001 and 2004. Socioeconomic differences in contacts with a GP and specialist were examined using two-part hurdle models; use versus nonuse by logistic regression, and intensity of use by zero-truncated negative binomial regression.
Results: The intermediate income group was more likely to contact a GP and tenants reported more GP contacts. Lower educated older persons were less likely to contact a specialist and household income seemed to play a role in the intensity of specialist contacts.
Conclusions: The probability and intensity of general practitioner and specialist contacts among the Belgian older population are mainly determined by sociodemographic and health status variables, but a certain degree of inequity remains. The socioeconomic gradient differs in probability and intensity of contacts, indicating the advantage of using a two-part model in investigating socioeconomic differences in healthcare utilisation.