Comorbid substance and mental disorders among rural Americans: results from the National Comorbidity Survey

Leigh Ann Simmons, Jennifer R Havens
Journal of Affective Disorders 2007, 99 (1): 265-71

BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to examine whether rural inhabitants were more likely than urban inhabitants to meet the criteria for comorbid mental health and substance abuse or dependence disorders.

METHODS: Data were from the National Comorbidity Survey, and included 5185 (532=rural; 4653=urban) persons age 14-54 years of age who were interviewed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI). Logistic regression that accounted for the complex survey data and weighting scheme was utilized.

RESULTS: Participants residing in rural areas were more likely to meet the DSM-III-R criteria for past month alcohol abuse or dependence if they also met the diagnostic criteria for past month major depressive disorder (MDD) or lifetime antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), adjusting for age, race, gender, education and income. Similarly, rural participants were more likely to meet the criteria for comorbid drug abuse or dependence in the past month if they met the diagnosis for either past month MDD, generalized anxiety disorder or lifetime ASPD, controlling for demographic characteristics. Rural residents with any current mental disorder also were less likely to seek treatment than their urban counterparts.

LIMITATIONS: Data were collected in 1991 and do not capture changes in prevalence of comorbidities. Also, the small number of rural residents sampled resulted in small cell sizes for some comorbidities.

CONCLUSIONS: Rural residents were significantly more likely to meet the criteria for substance disorders given they also met the criteria for a mental disorder, and those with any current mental disorder were less likely to seek treatment. Since the overall prevalence of these disorders does not differ between rural and urban inhabitants, findings suggest that rural persons may lack access to adequate treatment for their mental health disorders and subsequently may be self-medicating with alcohol and/or drugs.

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