Research Article

Low levels of ill health among elderly non-consulters in general practice.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984; 289 doi: (Published 10 November 1984) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984;289:1273
  1. S Ebrahim,
  2. R Hedley,
  3. M Sheldon


    The characteristics of random samples of elderly patients (over 65 years of age), designated as consulters (n = 200) and non-consulters (n = 196), in a group general practice were compared using a postal questionnaire that was validated by comparison with findings by general practitioners in a random sample of 58 responders. A response rate of 90% was obtained, and all non-responders were visited by their general practitioner. The questionnaire had a sensitivity of 79% and a specificity of 82% when compared with general practitioner findings. The use of hospital and social services by non-consulters was low in this practice. Measures of disability and state of health showed that non-consulters were a fit group of the aged. Case finding for problems among elderly people should initially be confined to consulters, who have a high prevalence of problems. Non-consulters are a low risk group that can be assessed only with special effort and extra resources. Once an effective case finding system has been developed it might then be reasonable to consider ways of finding the few patients who have problems but do not consult their doctor.