Rural hospital closures are high on the current health care agenda in Denmark. One raised concern is that rural hospital closures may further decrease population numbers in rural areas, as closures may induce some residents to move away from affected areas, i.e. closer to health care services elsewhere. The aim of this study is to investigate whether rural hospital closures may lead to out-migration in a Danish setting and to investigate which socioeconomic groups would be most likely to migrate. Methods: The island of Ærø was selected as case study area. The island has one small hospital. By use of fully structured telephone interviews, a representative sample of Ærø inhabitants (N=1000) was asked how important it was for them to live close to a hospital and whether they would consider moving away if their hospital was closed. Results: 47% found it very important to live close to a hospital and 29% would consider moving away if their hospital was closed. Multiple regression analyses showed that child families were most likely to consider moving away and elderly people were least likely to consider moving away. Conclusions: The study suggests that rural hospital closures may lead to out-migration, although the hypothetical way of questioning leaves uncertainty about the actual scale of out-migration. Child families appear to be the most likely out-migrants. Elderly people may be hardest hit by a hospital closure, being most reliant on health care and least inclined to move away.
Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 2008, Vol 36, Issue 5, p. 460-466