To analyse the association between patients’ socioeconomic position (SEP) and the use of emergency departments (EDs).
his population-based study included all visits to ED in 2012 by inhabitants of the French Midi-Pyrénées region, recorded by the Regional Emergency Departments Observatory. We compared ED visit rates and the proportion of non-severe visits according to the patients’ SEP as assessed by the European Deprivation Index.
We analysed 496,388 visits. The annual ED visit rate increased with deprivation level: 165.9 [95% CI (164.8-166.9)] visits per 1000 inhabitants among the most advantaged group, compared to 321.9 [95% CI (320.3-323.5)] per 1000 among the most disadvantaged. However, the proportion of non-severe visits was about 14% of the visits, and this proportion did not differ according to SEP.
Although the study shows a difference of ED visit rates, the probability of a visit being non-severe is not meaningfully different according to SEP. This supports the assumption that ED visit rate variations according to SEP are mainly explained by SEP-related differences in health states rather than SEP-related differences in health behaviours.