A study of the relationship between social network, perceived ill health and utilization of emergency care. A case-control study

Scand J Soc Med. 1988;16(2):87-93. doi: 10.1177/140349488801600205.


Several studies have shown that persons who repeatedly turn to somatic emergency departments, besides having ailments also often have social and psychological problems. It has also been shown that this group of patients differs from the general population and can be considered a psycho-socially exposed group. In the present study a group of recurrent users (4 + yearly visits) was compared to a group of first-time visitors to the general emergency department of a middlesized metropolitan hospital. Both patient groups were asked to complete a questionnaire that contained 45 items, covering socio-demographic and social network variables, social and personal problems, perceived state of health and contacts with other care-giving institutions. The results showed that the first-time visitors were significantly younger than the recurrent users, and more often actively employed. Only 2 percent of the first-time visitors developed a behaviour of recurrent use of the ED. The recurrent users were well-known at the hospital, not only in the emergency department but also at the out-patient clinics and the social work department. The multiple Odds ratio showed that alcohol abuse, lack of close friend, general health problems and deteriorating health were important risk factors for recurrent ED use. It is suggested that an individual treatment plan including medical, social and societal measures could be one alternative in an attempt to more efficiently treat these patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Environment*
  • Social Support*
  • Sweden