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Health Serv Res. 1997 April; 32(1): 37–53.
PMCID: PMC1070168

Genetic and environmental contributions to healthcare need and utilization: a twin analysis.


OBJECTIVE: An exploratory study to examine the genetic and environmental influences on healthcare-seeking behavior for four health conditions (high blood pressure, mental health problems, joint disorders, and hearing problems). DATA SOURCES: Data collected from 3,602 male-male twin pair members of the Vietnam Era Twin (VET) Registry. STUDY DESIGN: Varying models for the relationship between genetic and environmental influences on health condition liability and on treatment use were tested in an attempt to explain the relative contributions of additive genetic, common, and unique environmental effects to health condition and treatment use. DATA COLLECTION: A mail and telephone survey of general health status was administered in 1987 to VET Registry twins. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Variance component estimates under the best-fitting model for the genetic component ranged from 24 percent to 52 percent for the condition status and from 42 percent to 56 percent for treatment-seeking behavior. CONCLUSIONS: Utilization models that consider only environmental parameters will leave a large percentage of variability unexplained. Familial patterns have an impact not only on disease susceptibility but also on healthcare utilization, thereby having lifelong implications for social and fiscal constraints placed on the healthcare system. Thus, explanatory models for healthcare utilization behavior should consider the contribution of genetic factors in the decision to seek and use health services.

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Selected References

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