Study objective: To examine the association between socioeconomic position at the time of birth and the use and cost of hospital inpatient services during the first 10 years of life.
Design: Analysis of a database of linked birth registrations, hospital records, and death certificates. Associations between the social class of the head of household and hospital inpatient service utilisation and costs during the first 10 years of life were analysed using multilevel multiple regression modelling.
Participants and setting: All 117 212 children born to women who both lived and delivered in hospital in Oxfordshire or West Berkshire, southern England, during the period 1 January 1979 to 31 December 1988.
Main results: The study showed that children born into social classes II, III-NM, III-M, IV, and V were more likely to be admitted to hospital, spend longer in hospital overall, and generate greater hospital costs than children born into social class I. The adjusted effect regarding hospital inpatient admissions, days, and costs was 1.27 (95% CI: 1.26, 1.27), 1.20 (1.19, 1.21), and 1.50 (1.49, 1.53), respectively, for children born into social class V when compared with children born into social class I. The impact of social class on hospital inpatient admissions, days, and costs was most acutely felt during years 3–10 of life as compared with the first two years of life.
Conclusions: Health service decision makers need to be alert to the adverse sequelae that might result from socioeconomic disadvantage when planning health services for children. Particular attention should be paid to targeting deprived populations with prevention interventions that are known to be effective.
- socioeconomic differences
- hospital utilisation
- hospital costs
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Funding: the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit is core funded by the Department of Health. Data collection for the ORLS was funded by the former Oxford Regional Health Authority. The views expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of the funding bodies.
Conflicts of interests: none declared.