Blood pressure, arthritis, immunisation dominate older people's GP visits

High blood pressure, osteoarthritis, an immunisations/vaccinations dominated older people's reasons for visits to their GP, according to a new report released today by the University of Sydney and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, Older Patients Attending General Practice in Australia 2000-02, is based on 50,000 GP consultations with patients aged 65 years or more.

It found that 93% of older patients attending general practice had chronic conditions. High blood pressure and osteoarthritis were the most common chronic conditions reported, as well as being the top two reasons for consultation overall.

Report co-author Julie O'Halloran, of the AIHW's General Practice Statistics and Classification Unit at the University of Sydney, said that high blood pressure was also the condition most likely to co-exist with other conditions.

'In particular we found that common combinations were high blood pressure with lipid disorder (e.g. high blood cholesterol), or high blood pressure with osteoarthritis.'

'Another interesting finding was that when we compared the results of this study with a similar one completed in 1990-91, we found that osteoarthritis, diabetes, and lipid disorders were more frequently managed in 2000-02 than a decade ago.'

'Conversely, ischaemic heart disease (heart attack and angina), heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were managed less frequently than 10 years earlier', Ms O'Halloran said.

Ms O'Halloran said that she was surprised at the relatively low management rates of some conditions, such as osteoporosis and dementia-both causes of disability among older people.

The relatively high uptake of annual health assessments for older people, recently introduced by the Australian Government, was reflected in the results of the study, with data from almost 200 assessments reported.

'GPs appear to be taking the opportunity when conducting health assessments to look at the health of the patient holistically, and to identify problems that may not have been readily apparent during other consultations'.

Other findings from the report include:

  • Almost 1 in 5 patients aged 65 or more was obese, with over half being either overweight or obese. However, among those aged 75+, 1 in 10, particularly women, were underweight.
  • Injuries were managed at 1 in every 20 encounters with older patients.
  • Medications acting on the cardiovascular system were the most frequently prescribed, supplied or advised.

27 August 2003


Further information: Julie O'Halloran, tel. (02) 9845 8161 or 0412 971 061 OR A/Prof Helena Britt, tel. (02) 9845 8150 or 0411 197 938
Media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW tel. (02) 6244 1032, OR Media Office, University of Sydney, 02 9351 2261