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Int J Equity Health. 2021 Apr 20;20(1):105. doi: 10.1186/s12939-021-01444-z.
BACKGROUND: Inequalities in healthcare utilization exist across ethnic groups; however, the contributions of health-related knowledge and psychosocial factors to these inequalities remain unclear. We examined associations of social determinants of health, psychological factors, knowledge, attitudes and health practices, with hospitalizations in internal medicine divisions, among Israeli adults, Jews and Arabs, with non-communicable diseases, in a setting of universal health insurance.
METHODS: A retrospective study was undertaken among 520 Jews and Arabs aged 40 years or older with non-communicable diseases, members of a large health maintenance organization. Hospitalization (at least once during 2008) in an internal medicine division was determined based on documentation in electronic health records. Participants were randomly selected in strata of sex, population-group and hospitalization status (yes/no). Data were collected from medical records and via face-to-face interviews using a structured questionnaire. Main independent variables included comorbidity burden, health behaviors, mental health wellbeing and self-rated health. Scales measuring health knowledge and attitudes/beliefs were constructed using factor analysis.
RESULTS: Comorbidity burden (OR 1.41 [95% CI 1.24-1.61]) and self-rated health (not good vs. good) (OR 1.88 [95% CI 1.13-3.12]) were positively associated with hospitalizations in an internal medicine division, while an inverse association was found with better mental health wellbeing (OR 0.98 [95% CI 0.96-0.99, for each 1-point score increase). Among Jewish participants, positive associations were found of the number of offspring, comorbidity burden and perceived difficulty, with hospitalizations. No significant associations were found with hospitalizations of other sociodemographics, health behaviors, knowledge and attitudes/beliefs.
CONCLUSIONS: Comorbidity burden was the main risk factor of hospitalizations in internal medicine divisions. Psychosocial factors, such as self-rated health, a complex variable affected by social capital, mental wellbeing, the number of offspring, and perceived burden and difficulty, seem also to contribute. These findings suggest the involvement of broad family and social factors, beyond individual level characteristics and medical needs, in hospitalizations in internal medicine divisions. Interventions to reduce hospitalizations should be comprehensive and integrate aspects of mental health wellbeing; they should build on familial characteristics (e.g., number of offspring), factors related to social capital such as self-rated health, and perceived burden and difficulty.