Unmet health care needs of older people: prevalence and predictors in a French cross-sectional survey

Eur J Public Health. 2014 Oct;24(5):808-13. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckt179. Epub 2013 Nov 27.


Background: Unmet health care needs are associated with negative health outcomes, yet there is a paucity of data on this problem among older people.

Objective: To identify unmet health care needs and associated factors among older people in France.

Methods: This is a cross-sectional population study of people aged 70 years or older in which 2350 respondents were interviewed in 2008-10. During a standardized interview, a nurse examined health problems, functional abilities and use of health care resources. Unmet health care needs were defined as situations in which a participant needed health care and did not receive it.

Results: The mean age was 83.2 ± 7.4 years. Almost all participants reporting a chronic disease (98.6%) had consulted a physician in the previous 6 months. Unmet health care needs were found in 23.0% of the sample and mainly consisted of lack of dental care (prevalence of 17.7%), followed by lack of management of visual or hearing impairments (prevalence of 4.4% and 3.1%, respectively). Age was the main factor associated with unmet health care needs [compared with people aged 70-79: odds ratio80-89 years = 2.26 (1.70-3.03), odds ratio90 years and over = 3.85 (2.71-5.45)]. Other associated factors were regular smoking, homebound status, poor socioeconomic conditions, depression, limitations in instrumental activities of daily living and low medical density.

Conclusion: Unmet health care needs affect almost one-quarter of older people in France. Efforts should be made to improve oral health and develop home care, especially for the oldest-olds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dental Care for Aged / methods
  • Dental Care for Aged / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • France
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services for the Aged / statistics & numerical data*
  • Home Care Services
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic / methods
  • Male
  • Socioeconomic Factors