Does fear of serious disease predict consulting behaviour amongst patients with dyspepsia in general practice?

Stuart Howell, Nicholas J. Talley

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Abstract

Background. There have been relatively few studies of health care utilization amongst patients with upper gastrointestinal (GI) complaints. We postulated that health care utilization amongst patients with dyspepsia is primarily driven by fear of serious disease. Method. Consecutive patients presenting to primary care with dyspepsia were questioned about their health care utilization over a 12-month pre-consultation period. The patients completed a questionnaire which included validated measures of GI symptoms (including symptom frequency, duration and severity), and the shortened neuroticism scale of the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. In total, 614 patients were recruited into the study, and 596 patients provided details of their health care utilization. Previous health care utilization was defined as one or more primary care visits for upper GI symptoms in the 12 months prior to the index visit; frequent health care utilization was defined as six or more visits over the same period. Results. Previous health care utilization was reported by 80% of patients, while frequent health care utilization was reported by 26% of patients. Fear of serious illness and fear of cancer were univariately associated with previous and frequent health care utilization (both P = 0.001). However, the only independent predictors of previous health care utilization were frequent dyspepsia (odds ratio (OR) = 2.17), pain-related anxiety (OR = 2.08-4.66) and higher neuroticism scores (OR = 1.12); independent predictors of frequent health care utilization were frequent dyspepsia (OR = 3.25), pain-related anxiety (OR = 1.74-6.08), female gender (OR = 1.73) and being a non-drinker (OR = 1.72). Health care utilization was not independently associated with symptom severity or duration, or with patients' characteristics, such as age, marital status, ethnicity, smoking status or the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Conclusions. Consulting behaviour amongst patients with dyspepsia is driven in part by psychological factors and, in particular, by symptom-related anxiety as well as by the frequency of dyspepsia, but not primarily by fear of serious disease. Anxiety may help sustain health care utilization once the behaviour has been established.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)881-886
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Volume11
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1999
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Dyspepsia
  • Health care utilization
  • Psychological factors

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