Impact of parents' education on variation in hospital admissions for children: a population-based cohort study
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBMJ Open. 2021, 11 (6), e046656. 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-046656
Objectives To assess the impact of parental educational level on hospital admissions for children, and to evaluate whether differences in parents' educational level can explain geographic variation in admission rates. Design National cohort study. Setting The 18 hospital referral areas for children in Norway. Participants All Norwegian children aged 1–16 years in the period 2008–2016 and their parents. Main outcome measures Age- and gender-adjusted admission rates and probability of admission. Results Of 1 538 189 children, 156 087 (10.2%) had at least one admission in the study period. There was a nearly twofold (1.9) variation in admission rates between the hospital referral areas (3113 per 100 000 children, 95% CI: 3056 to 3169 vs 1627, 95% CI: 1599 to 1654). Area level variances in multilevel analysis did not change after adjusting for parental level of education. Children of parents with low level of education (maternal level of education, low vs high) had the highest admission rates (2016: 2587, 95% CI: 2512 to 2662 vs 1810, 95% CI: 1770 to 1849), the highest probability of being admitted (OR: 1.18, 95% CI: 1.16 to 1.20), the highest number of admissions (incidence rate ratio: 1.05, 95% CI: 1.01 to 1.10) and admissions with lower cost (−0.5%, 95% CI: −1.2% to 0.3%). Conclusions Substantial geographic variation in hospital admission rates for children was found, but was not explained by parental educational level. Children of parents with low educational level had the highest admission probability, and the highest number of admissions, but the lowest cost of admissions. Our results suggest that the variation between the educational groups is not due to differences in medical needs, and may be characterised as unwarranted. However, the manner in which health professionals communicate and interact with parents with different educational levels might play an important role.