Background: Symptoms are an everyday part of most peoples' lives and many people with illness do not consult their doctor. The decision to consult is not based simply on the presence or absence of medical problems. Rather it is based on a complex mix of social and psychological factors.
Objectives: This literature review seeks to explore some of the pathways to care and those factors associated with low and high rates of consultation.
Methods: The paper examines the impact of socioeconomic and demographic factors on consultation rates and, using a revised version of the Health Belief Model, it highlights the psychological factors which influence decisions to seek medical care. Barriers which can inhibit consultation are discussed, as the decision to seek care will only result in a consultation if there is adequate access to care.
Results and conclusions: Whilst poor health status and social disadvantage increase both "objective" medical need and in turn, consultation rates, a range of other social and psychological factors have been shown to influence consulting behaviour.