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Help-seeking behaviour outside office hours in Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland: a questionnaire study exploring responses to hypothetical cases

19 Oct 2018


We aim to study the preferred behaviour among individuals from different age groups in three countries when acute health problems occur outside office hours and thereby to explore variations in help-seeking behaviour.


A questionnaire study exploring responses to six hypothetical cases describing situations with a potential need for seeking medical care and questions on background characteristics.


General population in Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland.


Danish, Dutch and Swiss individuals from three age groups (0–4, 30–39, 50–59 years).

Main outcome measures

Distribution of intended help-seeking preferences per case per age group, compared between countries. Differences in percentage of help-seeking outside office hours per age group and country, crude and adjusted for background characteristics.


Danish and Dutch parents of children aged 0–4 years differed in intended help-seeking behaviour for five out of six cases (abdominal pain, red eyes, rash, relapse fever, chickenpox); Danish parents significantly more often chose to contact out-of-hours (OOH) care than Dutch parents. For adults aged 30–39 years, no significant difference between the three countries was found for contacting OOH care. Swiss adults aged 50–59 years had the highest percentage of OOH contacts (38.3%), followed by the Danish (33.4%) and the Dutch (32.5%).


Some differences in help-seeking behaviour outside office hours exist between Danish, Dutch and Swiss individuals, particularly for parents of young children. The question remains whether these differences result from individual preferences, cultural disparities and/or health services variations. Future research should focus on identifying explanations for these differences to reduce undesirable use of OOH care.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open