Service use for mental health reasons: cross-provincial differences in rates, determinants, and equity of access

Helen-Maria Vasiliadis, Alain Lesage, Carol Adair, Richard Boyer
Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie 2005, 50 (10): 614-9

OBJECTIVES: In 2002, Canada undertook its first national survey on mental health and well-being, including detailed questioning on service use. Mental disorders may affect more than 1 person in 5, according to past regional and less comprehensive mental health surveys in Canada, and most do not seek help. Individual determinants play a role in health resource use for mental health (MH) reasons. This study aimed to provide prevalence rates of health care service use for MH reasons by province and according to service type and to examine determinants of MH service use in Canada and across provinces.

METHODS: We assessed the prevalence rate (95% confidence interval [CI]) of past-year health service use for MH reasons, and we assessed potential determinants cross-sectionally, using data collected from the Statistics Canada Canadian Community Health Survey: Mental Health and Well-Being (CCHS 1.2). We estimated models of resource use with logistic regression (using odds ratios and 95%CIs).

RESULTS: The prevalence of health service use for MH reasons in Canada was 9.5% (95%CI, 9.1% to 10.0%). The highest rates, on average, were observed in Nova Scotia (11.3%; 95%CI, 9.6% to 13.0%) and British Columbia (11.3%; 95%CI, 10.1% to 12.6%). The lowest rates were observed in Newfoundland and Labrador (6.7%; 95%CI, 5.3% to 8.0%) and Prince Edward Island (7.5%; 95%CI, 5.8% to 9.3%). In Canada, the general medical system was the most used for MH reasons (5.4%; 95%CI, 5.1% to 5.8%) and the voluntary network sector was the least used (1.9%; 95%CI, 1.7% to 2.1%). No difference was observed in the rate of service use between specialty MH (3.5%; 95%CI, 3.2% to 3.8%) and other professional providers (4.0%; 95%CI, 3.7% to 4.3%). In multivariate analyses, after adjusting for age and sex, the presence of a mental disorder was a consistent predictor of health service use for MH across the provinces.

CONCLUSIONS: There is up to a twofold difference in the type of service used for MH reasons across provinces. The primary care general medical system is the most widely used service for MH. Need remains the strongest predictor of use, especially when a mental disorder is present. Barriers to access, such as income, were not identified in all provinces. Different sociodemographic variables played a role in service seeking within each province. This suggests different attitudes toward common mental disorders and toward care seeking among the provinces.

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