The influence of gender and other patient characteristics on health care-seeking behaviour: A QUALICOPC study

Ashley E. Thompson, Yvonne Anisimowicz, Baukje Miedema, William Hogg, Walter P. Wodchis, Kris Aubrey-Bassler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

415 Scopus citations


Background: Canadians' health care-seeking behaviour for physical and mental health issues was examined using the international Quality and Cost of Primary Care (QUALICOPC) survey that was conducted in 2013 in Canada. Method: This study used the cross-sectional Patient Experiences Survey collected from 7260 patients in 759 practices across 10 Canadian provinces as part of the QUALICOPC study. A Responsive Care Scale (RCS) was constructed to reflect the degree of health care-seeking behaviour across 11 health conditions. Using several patient characteristics as independent variables, four multiple regression analyses were conducted. Results: Patients' self-reports indicated that there were gender differences in health care-seeking behaviour, with women reporting they visited their primary care provider to a greater extent than did men for both physical and mental health concerns. Overall, patients were less likely to seek care for mental health concerns in comparison to physical health concerns. For both women and men, the results of the regressions indicated that age, illness prevention, trust in physicians and chronic conditions were important factors when explaining health care-seeking behaviours for mental health concerns. Conclusion: This study confirms the gender differences in health care-seeking behaviour advances previous research by exploring in detail the variables predicting differences in health care-seeking behaviour for men and women. The variables were better predictors of health care-seeking behaviour in response to mental health concerns than physical health concerns, likely reflecting greater variation among those seeking mental health care. This study has implications for those working to improve barriers to health care access by identifying those more likely to engage in health care-seeking behaviours and the variables predicting health care-seeking. Consequently, those who are not accessing primary care can be targeted and policies can be developed and put in place to promote their health care-seeking behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number38
JournalBMC Family Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the physicians, office staff and patients who participated in this study. Financial support was provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Information (CIHI) and the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI). Provincial research grants were received from the Nova Scotia Health Services Research Foundation, Department of Health in New Brunswick, la Commissaire à la santé et au bien-être et la Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec, and the Health System Performance Research Network funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. The views expressed in this manuscript are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the funders.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Thompson et al.


  • Gender
  • Health care-seeking behaviour
  • Primary care


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