Users of mental health services visit GPs more than non-users

January 01, 0001

Users of mental health services visit GPs more than non-users

The aim of this study was to compare rates of visits to a general practitioner between users and non-users of mental health services (MHS). It consisted of a population-based retrospective cohort study of 204,727 users and 294,076 matched non-users of MHS in Western Australia from 1 January 1990 to 30 June 2006, based on linked records of the use of MHS, hospital admissions, Medicare claims for GP and specialist services, electoral roll registration and deaths.

Relative to non-users of MHS, the adjusted rate ratios (ARRs) of visits to GPs by users of MHS was 1.622 overall, and was elevated in each separate category of mental illness. ARRs were highest for alcohol/drug disorders, schizophrenia and affective psychoses (2.404, 1.834 and 1.798, respectively). The results were not changed by location (metropolitan, rural or remote addresses). However, the 4% of MHS users with no fixed address had a very low ARR of visits to GPs (0.058).

The researchers concluded: "Users of MHS visit GPs substantially more often than non-users, with the exception of those with no fixed address who seldom see a GP at all."

This does not mean that they are seeing the GPs for mental health issues, but it may provide an opportunity for more coordinated care.

For the full abstract, click here.

MJA 192(9):501-506, 3 May 2010
© The Medical Journal of Australia 2010
Do users of mental health services lack access to general practitioner services? Qun Mai, C D’Arcy J Holman, Frank M Sanfilippo, Jonathan D Emery and Louise M Stewart.

Category: P. Psychological, HSR. Health Services Research. Keywords: mental health, general practitioner, services, access, population based retrospective cohort study, journal watch.
Synopsis edited by Dr Stephen Wilkinson, Melbourne, Australia. Posted on Global Family Doctor 4 June 2010

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