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A Cohort Analysis of the Use of Health Services by Elderly Americans

Fredric D. Wolinsky, Ray R. Mosely II and Rodney M. Coe
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 27, No. 3 (Sep., 1986), pp. 209-219
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2136742
Page Count: 11
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A Cohort Analysis of the Use of Health Services by Elderly Americans
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Abstract

This paper presents a cohort analysis of the use of health services by elderly Americans. Standard cohort tables are constructed using data on approximately 50,000 individuals from the 1972, 1976, and 1980 Health Interview Surveys. Six 4-year age cohorts are tracked: the youngest, 56-59 years old in 1972; the oldest, 84-87 years old in 1980. Significant age and period effects on physician and hospital contact have been detected; for example the aging effect reflects an increase in the percentage of individuals who either saw a physician on an outpatient basis or were hospitalized in the previous year. Analysis of the volume of physician visits reveals an inverse J-curve relationship with age, with the pivotal point occurring at or about age 80. Consideration of nine alternative explanations of the J-curve phenomenon shows that three are plausible on either conceptual or empirical grounds. Two of these explanations suggest the substitution of either (1) hospital-based services for ambulatory-based services or (2) social supports (especially in the form of older children as care givers) for physicians' services; the third explanation focuses on the involuntary severance of patient-practitioner relationships, resulting from the retirement or death of longstanding family physicians. Finally, competing policy implications of these explanations are discussed.

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