Exploring Assistance in Sweden and the United States

Dennis Shea, Adam Davey, Elia E. Femia, Steven H. Zarit, Gerdt Sundström, Stig Berg, Michael A. Smyer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Purpose: Few international comparisons of health services are performed using microlevel data. Using such data, this paper compares the need for and receipt of assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) in comparable samples in the United States and Sweden, a country with a universal system of community-based services. Design and Methods: Data from national surveys of community residents completed at approximately the same time in each nation are used to create comparable measures of need and assistance. Descriptive and logistic regression analyses compare need and assistance patterns across the nations and identify individual factors that explain receipt of assistance and unmet needs. Results: Our results indicate that a simple story of greater use of paid formal services in Sweden and more unpaid informal use in the United States masks a more complex relationship. Assistance with ADLs seems to be more targeted in Sweden; narrow differences in assistance widen considerably when the analysis is limited to those reporting need. Implications: Although these two different health systems result in similar levels of overall ADL assistance, a detailed microlevel comparison reveals key distinctions. Further microlevel comparisons of access, cost, and quality in cross-national data can further aid our understanding of the consequences of health policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)712-721
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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