Published data from the Hospital In-Patient Enquiry (1973) are used to examine the relationship between hospital use and marital state. Non-married men and women are shown to have higher discharge rates and longer mean durations of stay than married patients in the corresponding age groups, and to account, on average, for about 24 000 additional beds each day in non-psychiatric hospitals. Hospital Activity Analysis data from one region suggest that the higher rates of bed use by non-married patients as a whole are maintained for both single and widowed patients separately, and the differences are also observed in all types of non-psychiatric hospitals. Two possible modes of explanation are discussed: that the incidence and possibly the severity of conditions that are normally treated in hospital may be differentially distributed among marital status groups; and that non-clinical factors in decisions about admission and discharge may be associated more commonly with non-married than married patients. The results carry no normative implications for the uses to which hospital resources should be put.
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