Objectives: To describe the temporal development of mortality and health service utilisation defined as in- and outpatient hospital contacts, contacts with general practitioner and specialists, and prescribed dispensed medication among Danish children 0-5 years of age from 1999 to 2016.
Design: Register-based descriptive study.
Participants: All children born in Denmark in the period 1994-2016 followed until 5 years of age.
Main outcome measures: Annual incidence rates of mortality and health service utilisation outcomes, and incidence rate ratios compared to the reference calendar year 1999. The new measure of post-discharge mortality is presented.
Results: Post-discharge mortality decreased from 1999 to 2016, IRR2016 = 0.49 (95% CI: 0.36 to 0.66). Total contacts did not change much over time, IRR2016 = 1.02 (1.02 to 1.03), but increased among neonates, IRR2016 = 3.69 (3.63 to 3.75), and decreased among children with chronic disease IRR2016 = 0.94 (0.93 to 0.94). In- and out-patient hospitalisations increased, IRR2016 = 1.26 (1.24-1.27) resp. IRR2016 = 1.62 (1.60-1.63), contacts with medical specialists increased, IRR2016 = 1.43 (1.42 to 1.43), whilst contacts with general practitioner decreased, IRR2016 = 0.91 (0.91 to 0.91). Medication use decreased, IRR2016 = 0.82 (0.82 to 0.82).
Conclusions: Our measure of post-discharge mortality was halved during the study period indicating improved health. Overall health service utilisation did not change much, but the type of utilisation changed, and the development over time differed between subgroups defined by age and chronic disease status. Our findings call for considerations about the benefit of increased specialisation and increased use of health services among 'healthy' children not suffering from chronic disease.