Ingrid Osika Friberg
“We could probably avoid premature death, severe illness and reduce the costs if men sought treatment earlier and went to the primary care instead of to specialist care”, says Ingrid Osika Friberg, an economist and development manager at Västra Götaland Knowledge Centre for equal care.
Ingrid Osika Friberg is a PhD student in health economics at the Department of Social Medicine and Epidemiology (EPSO), at the Institute of Medicine. She has studied how women and men of all ages consume health care, where in the care they are found, visits and hospital days, and what healthcare costs. She has focused on three levels of care; primary care, specialist care and hospital care.
“Overall women’s health care costs 20 percent more per capita than men’s because women seek more care”, says Ingrid Osika Friberg.
When all care related to reproduction was lifted out of the material, half of the differences in costs disappeared. The data was then adjusted further – disorders of the reproductive system, such as prostate and breast cancer, was removed from the material. By then eight percent difference in cost remained.
“We wanted to know what kind of care that differs, and found that women dominate greatly in psychiatry and mental health, and in diseases of the muscles and joints. Women’s higher costs in these diseases could explain the persistent gender disparities at eight percent.”
For women to stay healthy, both more research and major changes in society are needed, according to Ingrid Osika Friberg.
One clear result of the study was that men and women seek care at different levels of care. Men seek primary care at a much lower extent, compared to women. Overall, women make 58 percent more visits in primary care compared with men. Taking into account the gender-specific care they do 39 percent more visits to primary care.
“Men are more hospitalized for issues that primary care could have come to terms with if men went there at an earlier stage”, says Ingrid Osika Friberg. “We know that men are waiting longer to seek treatment and once they do seek care they are probably sicker than women – and that’s why their care becomes more expensive.”
The study was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health on December 9, 2015.
Knowledge Centre for equal care is a unit within the Region Västra Götaland. The Knowledge Centre’s task is to draw attention to inequalities in health care and provide care operations support in overcoming the differences.