Publication Details

Whyatt, D., Tenneti, R., Marsh, J., Kemp, A., Firth, L., Murray, K., Turlach, B. & Vickery, A. (2014). The ecological fallacy of the role of age in chronic disease and hospital demand. Medical Care, 52 (10), 891-900.


Objective: To examine the relationship between age and all-cause hospital utilization in the years preceding and following a diagnosis in hospital of heart failure, type 2 diabetes, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Research Design: A cohort study of all patients in Western Australia who have had a principal diagnosis of heart failure, type 2 diabetes, or COPD, upon admission to hospital. All-cause hospital utilization 6 years preceding and 4 years following cardinal events, that is, a disease-specific diagnosis upon hospital admission, where such an event has not occurred in the previous 2 years, are examined in specific age groups. Results: Six years preceding a cardinal event, all-cause emergency department (ED) presentations are similar in all age groups, from under 55 to over 85 years of age, except in COPD where ED presentation rates are higher in younger groups. All-cause hospital inpatient days are transiently higher in the years preceding and following a cardinal event in older age groups, yet return to similar levels across all age cohorts after 4 years. ED presentations are significantly higher in the 4 years following cardinal events in younger compared with older groups. Conclusions: Longitudinal analysis of utilization around cardinal events overcomes the confounding effect of differences in chronic disease rates between age groups, avoiding a source of ecologic bias that erroneously attributes increasing utilization in individuals with chronic disease to age. Programs designed to reduce hospital demand in patients with chronic disease should possibly focus on younger, rather than older, individuals.



Link to publisher version (DOI)