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Logo of brjgenpracRCGP homepageJ R Coll Gen Pract at PubMed CentralBJGP at RCGPBJGP at RCGP
Br J Gen Pract. 2002 February; 52(475): 124–130.
PMCID: PMC1314218

Inequalities in morbidity and consulting behaviour for socially vulnerable groups.


BACKGROUND: The focus of health policy on improving health and reducing inequality for socially vulnerable groups. AIM: To examine self-report of condition-specific morbidity and consultation with the general practitioner (GP) for socially vulnerable groups. DESIGN OF STUDY: Cross-sectional survey using a modified version of the General Practitioner Assessment Survey (GPAS). SETTING: Ten general practices in each of six health authorities. METHOD: A random sample of 200 patients was selected from each practice. The questionnaire elicited information about experience of specific acute and chronic conditions and whether the GP had been consulted. Four sub-samples were selected from the 4493 registered patients who responded to the self-completion questionnaire. They were lone mothers (n = 160), elderly living alone (n = 417), the unemployed (n = 100), and members of ethnic minority groups (n = 316). RESULTS: Logistic regression analyses showed that, after adjustment for age, sex, smoking, and housing tenure, only lone motherhood and ethnic minority group status were consistently and independently associated with poorer health outcomes. Lone motherhood was associated with a higher likelihood of anxiety (odds ratio [OR] = 2.03, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.34 to 3.08) and sleep problems (OR = 1.83, 95% CI = 1.18 to 2.83) and ethnic minority group status with a higher likelihood of depression (OR = 2.02, 95% CI = 1.34 to 3.04), diabetes (OR = 4.03, 95% CI = 2.54 to 6.39, migraine (OR = 1.72, 95% CI = 1.26 to 2.35), and minor respiratory symptoms (OR = 1.75, 95% CI = 1.33 to 2.29). Ethnic minority group status was the only source of social vulnerability that was independently associated with a higher likelihood of GP consultation, particularly for episodes of illness such as backache (OR = 3.28, 95% CI = 2.06 to 5.21), indigestion (OR = 2.94, 95% CI = 1.53 to 5.65), migraine (OR = 3.22, 95% CI = 1.75 to 5.93), minor respiratory symptoms (OR = 3.53, 95% CI = 2.26 to 5.50) and sleep problems (OR = 4.72, 95% CI = 2.56 to 8.71). CONCLUSIONS: Social vulnerability can be a risk factor for poorer health, but this is dependent on the source of vulnerability and is condition-specific. No association was found between inequity in the utilisation of primary care and social vulnerability. The propensity for members of ethnic minority groups to consult more than white people, particularly for acute conditions, requires further exploration.

Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners