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Physician care access plays a significant role in extending global and regional life expectancy

      Highlight

      • Physician healthcare significantly promotes overall population health measured by life expectancy at birth.
      • The data analysis results reveal that physician healthcare is in significant demand worldwide.
      • The shortage of physicians to provide healthcare shortage is worse in developing countries.

      Abstract

      Background

      Previous cross-sectional studies generally did not fully consider the potential confounding factors associated with physician impact on overall population health. This ecological study controlled for health, demographic and socioeconomic confounders while using total physician density for predicting overall population health globally and regionally.

      Methods

      Ecological data were extracted from the United Nations agencies for 215 populations. Considering the competing effects of economic affluence, urban advantages and obesity, correlations between physician density and life expectancy at birth (LEB) were analysed with scatter plots, bivariate correlation, partial correlation and multiple linear regression analyses. Countries are also grouped for exploring the regional correlations between physician density and LEB.

      Results

      Physician density correlates to LEB and this relationship remains regardless of the competition of the individual confounders, economic affluence, urbanization and obesity, or their combination. Physician density has the greatest influence on LEB, while economic affluence is second. Physician density explains 64.89% of LEB in this study. Together with constant bivariate correlations in country groupings, power correlation without a plateau or U shape in the trendline of the scatterplots, suggests that a shortage of physicians is a worldwide issue.

      Conclusions

      Physician density is a major independent contributor for LEB both globally and with special regard to the developing world. Telehealth may be an alternative to increase physicians’ capacity while funding for increasing physician employment is desirable.

      Keywords

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