© The Author(s) 2018. In astrophysics, the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ describes the circumstellar habitable zone, in which planets, sufficiently similar to Earth, could support human life. The children’s story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, one of the most popular fairy tales in the English language, uses this metaphor to describe conditions for life that are neither too hot nor too cold and neither too close to the sun nor too far from its warmth. We propose that the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ also offers an apt metaphor for the struggle that people face when deciding if and when to consult a health care provider with a possible health problem. Drawing on decades of research in Denmark, England and Sweden on people’s accounts of their experiences of accessing health care, this essay considers the ambivalence of health care seeking that individuals face in identifying when it is ‘just right’ to consult a general practitioner and the steps that health systems and individual clinicians might take to widen the zone.
Journal of Health Services Research and Policy