More use of health care facilities over the past 30 years

25/01/2011 15:00

Over the past 30 years, the use of health care facilities has obviously increased. The proportion of people consulting a GP, dentist or physiotherapist has risen and people take more medicines. Demographic ageing is only one of the reasons for the increased use of health care facilities.

Three quarters of the population consult their GP

The proportion of people consulting their GP at least once a year increased from nearly 70 percent in 1981 to 74 percent in 2009. The increase is partly due to demographic ageing. If the ageing process is taken into account, more than 72 percent of the population consulted their GP in 2009, which is still more than in 1981. The increase also applies to medical specialists.

Visits to GP and medical specialist

Visits to GP and medical specialist

Sharp increase visits to dentist and physiotherapist

Visits to the dentist also grew noticeably, in particular between 1981 and 2000. The proportion of people visiting a dentist went up from 62 to 78 percent over the period 1981–2000 and has remained stable since 2000. If the proportion of older people in the population would not have risen in the past three decades, the figure for 2009 would be even higher (81 percent).

In 1981, more than 6 percent of the population annually consulted a physiotherapist versus 20 percent in 2009. The proportion consulting alternative healers rose from 4 to 7 percent. Demographic ageing only plays a minor part in this respect.

Visits to dentist, physiotherapist and alternative healer

Visits to dentist, physiotherapist and alternative healer

Notable increase medicine intake

In the early 1980s, nearly 28 percent of the population used prescribed medicines in the fortnight prior to the survey. In 2009, the consumption of prescribed medicines had risen to 40 percent (approximately 35 percent without demographic changes). The use of over-the-counter medicines, like painkillers, cough syrups, etc. increased from more than 16 percent in the early 1980s to nearly 40 percent in 2003. Subsequently, the share has remained stable. Population ageing had little effect on this process.

Medication intake (past fortnight)

Medication intake (past fortnight)

Henk Swinkels