Impacts of mild COVID-19 on elevated use of primary and specialist health care services: A nationwide register study from Norway

Katrine Damgaard Skyrud, Kjersti Helene Hernæs, Kjetil Elias Telle, Karin Magnusson

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Aim To explore the temporal impact of mild COVID-19 on need for primary and specialist health care services. Methods In all adults (≥20 years) tested for SARS-CoV-2 in Norway March 1st 2020 to February 1st 2021 (N = 1 401 922), we contrasted the monthly all-cause health care use before and up to 6 months after the test (% relative difference), for patients with a positive test for SARSCoV-2 (non-hospitalization, i.e. mild COVID-19) and patients with a negative test (no COVID-19). Results We found a substantial short-term elevation in primary care use in all age groups, with men generally having a higher relative increase (men 20–44 years: 522%, 95%CI = 509–535, 45–69 years: 439%, 95%CI = 426–452, ≥70 years: 199%, 95%CI = 180–218) than women (20–44 years: 342, 95%CI = 334–350, 45–69 years = 375, 95%CI = 365–385, ≥70 years: 156%, 95%CI = 141–171) at 1 month following positive test. At 2 months, this sex difference was less pronounced, with a (20–44 years: 21%, 95%CI = 13–29, 45–69 years = 38%, 95% CI = 30–46, ≥70 years: 15%, 95%CI = 3–28) increase in primary care use for men, and a (20–44 years: 30%, 95%CI = 24–36, 45–69 years = 57%, 95%CI = 50–64, ≥70 years: 14%, 95%CI = 4–24) increase for women. At 3 months after test, only women aged 45–70 years still had an increased primary care use (14%, 95%CI = 7–20). The increase was due to respiratory- and general/unspecified conditions. We observed no long-term (4–6 months) elevation in primary care use, and no elevation in specialist care use. Conclusion Mild COVID-19 gives an elevated need for primary care that vanishes 2–3 months after positive test. Middle-aged women had the most prolonged increased primary care use.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0257926
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10 October
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Oct

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology


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