20 Apr 2021
International journal of environmental research and public health;
Avoidance of healthcare utilization among the general population during pandemic outbreaks has been observed and it can lead to a negative impact on population health. The object of this study is to examine the influence of socio-demographic and health-related factors on the avoidance of healthcare utilization during the global outbreak of a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in 2020. Data were collected through an online survey four weeks after the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) confirmed the first case in South Korea; 1000 subjects were included in the analysis. The logit model for regression was used to analyze the associations between sociodemographic and health-related factors regarding the avoidance of healthcare utilization. Among the participants, 73.2% avoided healthcare utilization, and there was no significant difference in the prevalence of healthcare avoidance between groups with (72.0%) and without (74.9%) an underlying disease. Sociodemographic characteristics (e.g., gender, age, income level, and residential area) were related to healthcare avoidance. Among the investigated influencing factors, residential areas highly affected by COVID-19 (i.e., Daegu/Gyeoungbuk region) had the most significant effect on healthcare avoidance. This study found a high prevalence of healthcare avoidance among the general population who under-utilized healthcare resources during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the results reveal that not all societal groups share the burden of healthcare avoidance equally, with it disproportionately affecting those with certain sociodemographic characteristics. This study can inform healthcare under-utilization patterns during emerging infectious disease outbreaks and provide information to public health emergency management for implementing strategies necessary to improve the preparedness of the healthcare system.