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01.12.2018 | Research Article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Geriatrics 1/2018

Unmet healthcare needs of elderly people in Korea

BMC Geriatrics > Ausgabe 1/2018
Yoon-Sook Kim, Jongmin Lee, Yeonsil Moon, Kyoung Jin Kim, Kunsei Lee, Jaekyung Choi, Seol-Heui Han



Elderly people often have more complicated healthcare needs than younger adults due to additional functional decline, physical illness, and psychosocial needs. Unmet healthcare needs increase illness severity, complications, and mortality. Despite this, research on the unmet healthcare needs of elderly people is limited in Korea. This study analysed the effect of functional deterioration related to aging on unmet healthcare needs based on the Korea Health Panel Study.


This cross-sectional study used data from the 2011–2013 survey of 8666 baseline participants aged 65 years and older. Unmet healthcare needs were calculated using a complex weighted sample design. Group differences in categorical variables were analysed using the Rao-Scott Chi-square test. Using logistic regression analysis, the association between unmet healthcare needs and aging factors was analysed.


The prevalence of unmet healthcare needs in Korean elderly was 17.4%. Among them, the leading reason was economic hardship (9.2%). Adjusting for sex, age, socioeconomic characteristics, and health-related characteristics, the group with depression syndrome was 1.45 times more likely to have unmet healthcare needs than that without depression syndrome (95% CI = 1.13–1.88). The group with visual impairment was 1.48 times more likely to have unmet healthcare needs than that without it (95% CI = 1.22–1.79). The group with hearing impairment was 1.40 times more likely to have unmet healthcare needs than that without it (95% CI = 1.15–1.72). The group with memory impairment was 1.74 times more likely to have unmet healthcare needs than that without it (95% CI = 1.28–2.36).


The unmet medical needs of the elderly are more diverse than those of younger adults. This is because not only socioeconomic and health-related factors but also aging factors that are important to the health of the elderly are included. All factors were linked organically; therefore, integrated care is needed to improve healthcare among the elderly. To resolve these unmet healthcare needs, it is necessary to reorganize the healthcare system in Korea to include preventive and rehabilitative services that address chronic diseases in an aged society and promote life-long health promotion.
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