Objectives: To investigate factors affecting the uptake of health and social services by elderly Asian Gujarati.
Methods: Four hundred and five Hindu Gujaratis and 381 whites aged 65 years and over residing in Leicester were randomly sampled from the Leicestershire District FHSA list by a computerized method based on linguistic analysis of the patient's name. One hundred and fifty Hindu Gujaratis and 152 whites were interviewed with response rates of 72% for the Asian Gujaratis and 80% for the white groups. The outcome measures were the activities of daily living (ADLs), incontinence, auditory/ visual deficits, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment (measured by the Mini-mental State Examination), depression, use of GP and hospital services, knowledge of community health and social services, willingness to use, suitability and cultural accessibility.
Results: The poorer uptake of services by elderly Asian Gujarati could not be explained by better health. They were significantly more likely to be dependent in six of the 14 ADLs and had higher rates of diabetes and impaired vision. Significantly more Asian Gujaratis than whites lived with others (84 versus 52%, p < 0.0001) with a greater availability of alternative sources of help and support. The knowledge and understanding of services were significantly poorer in the Gujarati group; fewer Asian Gujaratis knew how to apply for services and of those applying, fewer had been successful. Where services had been obtained, the levels of dissatisfaction were higher in the Gujarati group. The literacy rates were low in the Gujarati sample with 79% being unable to read or write in English and 27% unable to read or write in their mother tongue.
Conclusions: The lower uptake of services by elderly Asian Gujarati is not the result of better health but may be explained by greater family support together with a lack of knowledge of and dissatisfaction with what is available. Health services will need to reappraise and revise some of their practices if they are to cater adequately for this growing population with many needs as yet unmet.