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Open Access Research article

Use of health services and medicines amongst Australian war veterans: a comparison of young elderly, near centenarians and centenarians

Elizabeth E Roughead1, Lisa M Kalisch1*, Emmae N Ramsay2, Philip Ryan2 and Andrew L Gilbert1

Author Affiliations

1 Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre, Sansom Institute, School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

2 Data Management and Analysis Centre, Discipline of Public Health, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

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BMC Geriatrics 2010, 10:83  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-10-83

Published: 4 November 2010

Abstract

Background

Age and life expectancy of residents in many developed countries, including Australia, is increasing. Health resource and medicine use in the very old is not well studied. The purpose of this study was to identify annual use of health services and medicines by very old Australian veterans; those aged 95 to 99 years (near centenarians) and those aged 100 years and over (centenarians).

Methods

The study population included veterans eligible for all health services subsidised by the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) aged 95 years and over at August 1st 2006. A cohort of veterans aged 65 to 74 years was identified for comparison. Data were sourced from DVA claims databases. We identified all claims between August 1st 2006 and July 31st 2007 for medical consultations, pathology, diagnostic imaging and allied health services, hospital admissions, number of prescriptions and unique medicines. Chi squared tests were used to compare the proportion of centenarians (those aged 100 years and over) and near centenarians (those aged 95 to 99 years) who accessed medicines and health services with the 65 to 74 year age group. For those who accessed health services during follow up, Poisson regression was used to compare differences in the number of times centenarians and near centenarians accessed each health service compared to 65 to 74 year olds.

Results

A similar proportion (98%) of centenarians and near centenarians compared to those aged 65 to 74 consulted a GP and received prescription medicine during follow up. A lower proportion of centenarians and near centenarians had claims for specialist visits (36% and 57% respectively), hospitalisation (19% and 24%), dental (12% and 18%), physiotherapy (13% and 15%), pathology(68% and 78%) and diagnostic imaging services (51% and 68%) (p < 0.0001) and a higher proportion had claims for care plans (19% and 25%), occupational therapy (15% and 17%) and podiatry services (54% and 58%) (p < 0.0001). Compared to those aged 65 to 74, a lower proportion of centenarians and near centenarians received antihypertensives, lipid lowering therapy, antiinflammatories, and antidepressants (p < 0.0001) and a higher proportion received antibiotics, analgesics, diuretics, laxatives, and anti-anaemics (p < 0.0001).

Conclusions

Medical consultations and medicines are the health services most frequently accessed by Australian veteran centenarians and near centenarians. For most health services, the proportion of very old people who access them is similar to or less than younger elderly. Our results support the findings of other studies which suggest that longevity is not necessarily associated with excessive health service use.