Introduction: Older adults tend to refuse life-prolonging treatment for various reasons, and it is important to respect their choice of treatment at the end-of-life stage. The present study examines the associations of subjective economic status and gender with reasons for refusal of life-prolonging treatment in older adults in general population.
Methods: In this cross-sectional study, using stratified random sampling, 1,595 older adults living in Koriyama City, Japan, as of 2016, completed self-administered questionnaires on subjective economic status and preference for life-prolonging treatment, with free-description regarding reasons for refusal. We analyzed the associations between the combination of subjective economic status and gender with frequently mentioned terms and their clusters regarding such reasons, using χ2 test, content analysis, text mining and hierarchical cluster analysis.
Results: The combinations of subjective economic status and gender were significantly associated with clustered reasons for refusal of life-prolonging treatment (p < 0.01). The reasons frequently mentioned were: ‘avoidance of unnecessary medical care’ and ‘dignity’ in well-off females; and ‘financial burden on family’ in poor males.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that older adults who at first glance appear to be freely refusing life-prolonging treatment, may have their decision making restricted through economic constraints.