Ageing only partly the cause of higher care consumption

More and more people have been consulting a general practitioner, medical specialist and physiotherapist in the last 25 years. The number of people who use medication has also increased. The increases are only partly caused by the ageing process of the population and the corresponding decline in health.

More care consumption

In 1981 nearly 70 percent of the population consulted their GP at least once. In 2005 this had risen to 73 percent. The percentage of the population who visited a medical specialist rose from 37 to 40 percent in the same period. The proportion of people treated by a physiotherapists rose from 6 percent to 18 percent.

Use of medical provisions

Use of medical provisions

More people using medication too

Measured over a period of 14 days, 28 percent of the population used prescribed medication in 1984. In 2005 this had risen to 37 percent. The percentage of users of non-prescribed drugs such as aspirin, vitamins, digestion tablets etc. rose from 17 percent in 1981 to 40 percent in 2005.

Use of medication in 14 days

Use of medication in 14 days

Effects of ageing

If the age composition of the population had not changed, the increase in the number of patients consulting their GP would have been one quarter lower between 1981 and 2005.

For medical specialists, about half of the increase in patients is accounted for by the ageing of the population and for physiotherapists this is the case for 10 percent of patients.

The number of persons using prescribed medication would have been one third lower. Ageing has no effect on the use of non-prescribed medication.

Henk Swinkels