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Social networks and the probability of having a regular family doctor

TitleSocial networks and the probability of having a regular family doctor
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsDevlin, R. Anne, and Rudolph-Zbarsky J. A.
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Pages21 - 28
Date PublishedAugust

Social supports have been shown to affect health in a variety of ways. This paper explores a hitherto ignored avenue linking social supports to health, namely through their influence on having a regular family doctor. We examine the role played by social supports in helping to explain why a significant portion of the Canadian population does not have a regular family doctor even though primary care is fully covered by the public insurer and when having a regular physician is associated with better care and with access to specialists. five Canadian Community Health Surveys spanning 2001 to 2010 (n = 13,872 to n = 30,814) are employed, containing information on three measures of social support: sense of belonging to the local community, how often an individual has someone to confide in, and number of close friends and relatives. We find evidence of a positive link between social supports, especially sense of belonging, and having a regular doctor. Our results suggest that the benefits associated with policies geared towards community development and strengthening neighborhoods may also include facilitating access to primary-care physicians and, importantly, improving the matching of patients with regular family doctors.

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