Social capital and frequent attenders in general practice: a register-based cohort study

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BACKGROUND: Frequent attendance to primary care constitutes a large use of resources for the health care system. The association between frequent attendance and illness-related factors has been examined in several studies, but little is known about the association between frequent attendance and individual social capital. The aim of this study is to explore this association.

METHODS: The analysis is conducted on responders to the North Denmark Region Health Profile 2010 (n = 23,384), individually linked with information from administrative registers. Social capital is operationalized at the individual level, and includes cognitive (interpersonal trust and norms of reciprocity) as well as structural (social network and civic engagement) dimensions. Frequent attendance is defined as the upper-quartile of the total number of measured consultations with a general practitioner over a period of 148 weeks.

RESULTS: Using multiple logistic regression, we found that frequent attendance was associated with a lower score in interpersonal trust [OR 0.86 (0.79-0.94)] and social network [OR 0.88 (0.79-0.98)] for women, when adjusted for age, education, income and SF12 health scores. Norms of reciprocity and civic engagement were not significantly associated with frequent attendance for women [OR 1.05 (0.99-1.11) and OR 1.01 (0.92-1.11) respectively]. None of the associations were statistically significant for men.

CONCLUSION: This study suggests that for women, some aspects of social capital are associated with frequent attendance in general practice, and the statistically significant dimensions belonged to both cognitive and structural aspects of social capital. This association was not seen for men. This indicates a multifaceted and heterogeneous relationship between social capital and frequent attendance among genders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number310
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2018


  • General practitioners
  • Health care utilization
  • Primary health care
  • Social capital

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