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Gac Sanit. 2002 Mar-Apr;16(2):139-44.

[Use of emergency medical service and sociodemographic factors].

[Article in Spanish]

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Instituto de Geografía. Universidad de Bonn. Germany.



Health resources utilization is related to health conditions and to the population's sociodemographic characteristics. Low socioeconomic groups show increased utilization of certain resources. Emergency department utilization could also be affected by socioeconomic factors. The aim of this study was to identify differences in emergency department utilization among different socioeconomic groups.


A population-based study was performed. Census sections of the city of Santander in Spain were grouped according to sociodemographic variables (age, educational and professional attinment). Areas of the city with similar socioeconomic characteristics were established by cluster analysis. The place of residence of patients visiting the emergency department of th Hospital Marqués de Valdecilla was identified and the utilization rate was calculated for each cluster.


Cluster analysis was able to identify four different groups, each with different socioeconomic characteristics, which were closely related to the districts of Santander. Comparison of clusters 1 and 4 showed that increased emergency department utilization was found amongst groups with lowest socioeconomic status and higher mean age, with an odds ratio of 1.91 (95% CI: 1.73-2.1). Patients from higher socioeconomic groups were more likely to be admitted to hospital while those from lower socioeconomic groups made more repeat visits to the emergency department.


Emergency department utilization is affected by the sociodemographic characteristics of patients' area of residence. Patients with lower socioeconomic status show greater use of the emergency department.

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