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Understanding sex-related differences in healthcare utilisation among patients with inflammatory arthritis: a population-based study


Objectives — Our aim was to compare patterns of musculoskeletal-related healthcare utilisation between male and female patients before and after the diagnosis of inflammatory arthritis (IA).

Methods — We used Ontario administrative health data to create three inception cohorts of adult patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) diagnosed between April 2010 and March 2017. Healthcare utilisation indicators including visits to physicians, and use of musculoskeletal imaging and laboratory tests were assessed in each year for 3 years before and after diagnosis and compared between male and female patients using regression models adjusting for sociodemographic factors and comorbidities. Results were reported as ORs with 95% CIs for female patients compared with male patients.

Results — A total of 41 277 patients with RA (69% female), 8150 patients with AS (51% female) and 6446 patients with PsA (54% female) were analysed.

Similar trends of sex-related differences were observed in all three cohorts. Before diagnosis, female patients were more likely to visit rheumatologists (OR 1.32–2.28) and family physicians (OR 1.03–1.15) for musculoskeletal reasons, whereas male patients were more likely to visit the emergency for musculoskeletal reasons (OR 0.76–0.87). A similar female predominance was observed regarding musculoskeletal imaging and laboratory tests before diagnosis. After diagnosis, female patients were more likely to remain in rheumatology care (OR 1.12–1.24).

Conclusion — Female patients with IA have higher healthcare utilisation than male patients which may indicate biological differences in disease course or sociocultural differences in healthcare-seeking behaviour.



Tarannum S, Widdifield J, Wu CF, Johnson SR, Rochon P, Eder L. Ann Rheum Dis. 2023; 82:283-91. Epub 2022 Sep 16.

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