Indexed on: 15 Mar '06Published on: 15 Mar '06Published in: Social Science & Medicine
Why do contact frequencies with general practice of family members resemble each other? Many aspects related to the clustering of health-care utilisation within families have been studied, but the underlying mechanisms have not been addressed. This article considers whether family similarity in contact frequency with general practice can be explained as (a) a result of shared circumstances, (b) through socialisation, and (c) through homogeneity of background characteristics. Data from the second Dutch national survey of general practice were used to test these mechanisms empirically. This survey recorded all consultations in 2001 for 104 general practices in the Netherlands, serving 385,461 patients. Information about socio-demographic characteristics was collected by means of a patient survey. In a random sample, an extended health interview took place (n=12,699). Overall, we were able to show that having determinants in common through socialisation and shared circumstances can explain similarity in contact frequencies within families, but not all hypotheses could be confirmed. In specific terms, this study shows that resemblances in contact frequencies within families can be best explained by spending more time together (socialisation) and parents and children consulting a general practitioner simultaneously (circumstances of the moment). For general practitioners, the mechanisms identified can serve as a framework for a family case history. The importance of the mechanism of socialisation in explaining similarities in help-seeking behaviour between family members points to the significance of knowledge and health beliefs underlying consultation behaviour. An integrated framework including these aspects can help to better explain health behaviour.