Background Given the ageing population and rising prevalence of obesity, the aim was to examine the association between body mass index (BMI) and health care utilisation in older Irish adults.
Methods Baseline cross-sectional data from the Irish Longitudinal Study of Ageing (TILDA) were analysed. A clustered sample of addresses was chosen from all residential addresses in the Republic of Ireland. All household residents aged 50 or over and their spouses/partners were eligible to participate. A response rate of 62% was achieved, based on the proportion of selected households including an eligible participant who was successfully interviewed (total n = 6282 households). BMI was measured objectively using standard methods. WHO classifications were used to categorise BMI as normal (BMI 18.5 – 24.99 kg/m2), overweight (BMI 25 – 29.99 kg/m2) or obese (> 30 kg/m2). Those classified as underweight (n = 32) were excluded from analysis which was conducted using Stata v12.
Results Preliminary analysis was based on the 5873 individuals aged 50 and over, who participated in the health assessment. Applying sample weights, 49% of the population are male (n = 2701) with a mean age of 63.1 years. The mean age of females was 64.1 years. Most participants were overweight (43%) or obese (35.7%). Unadjusted comparisons between normal, overweight and obese groups suggest a significant association with high GP use (≥4 visits) and the use of out-patient hospital services. Almost 50% of obese individuals had ≥4 visits to the GP in the previous 12 months, compared to 36% of normal and 39% of overweight individuals (p = 0.000). Similarly, 47% of obese individuals had visited hospital out-patient services compared to 41% of overweight and 39% of normal weight individuals (p = 0.003). There were also significant associations between BMI and hospitalisation (p = 0.02) and receiving a prostate exam (p = 0.04). There was no significant association between BMI category and use of emergency department (p = 0.1428) or attending mammography screening (p = 0.8959).
Discussion Preliminary analysis suggests increased use of health services among older adults who are overweight or obese. Multivariate analysis will be conducted to examine whether overweight/obesity is an independent predictor of health service use in this population.
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