Sunday chart: seeing a medical professional and income

Some semi-regular data from the ABS came out on Friday that takes a look at people’s use of medical services. One of the most interesting bits for me is the data on people’s income and its potential relationship to the use of medical services. In this chart, I’ve divided the proportion of the bottom income quintile (the poorest 20 per cent of people, in other words) who use a particular service by the proportion of the top income quintile (the richest 20 per cent) who use it. So, for example, if 80 per cent of the poorest fifth of Australians went to the GP and 100 per cent of the richest fifth of Australians went to the GP, then it would be 80/100=0.8.

A lower number means that using the service is more common among the rich; a higher number means the service is more used among the poor, while the vertical line is at 1—that is, rich people use the service at least once in the same proportion as poor people. (

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 6.47.04 pm
As you can see, people in the lowest fifth of Australians by income report have been at least once to emergency departments much more than people in the richest fifth, while the situation is the reverse for the poorest fifth.

Let’s also take a quick look at the poorest fifth by itself, and what proportion of them report having used medical services:

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 6.56.51 pm

And now let’s look at the top fifth:

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 6.58.57 pmThe difference in the proportion of rich people and the proportion of poor people who have seen a dentist is pretty striking. Some of this may be due to age: retirees, for example, may have both lower income and dental needs that are a bit different. (They might have false teeth, is what I’m saying.) But if you’re looking for inequalities in the health system, dental care might be the best place to start.


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