Rural-Urban Differences in Depression Treatment and Suicidality

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Because there are fewer per capita providers trained to deliver mental health services in rural areas, the authors hypothesized that depressed rural individuals would receive less outpatient treatment and report higher rates of hospital admittance and suicide attempts than their urban counterparts.


The authors recruited 74% of eligible participants (n = 470) from a 1992 telephone survey and followed up 95% of subjects for 1 year. The authors collected data from subjects on psychiatric problems and service use and from insurers/providers on treatment and expenditures.


Although there were no rural-urban differences in the rate, type, or quality of outpatient depression treatment, rural subjects made significantly fewer specialty care visits for depression. Depressed rural individuals had 3.05 times the odds of being admitted to the hospital for physical problems (P = 0.02) and 3.06 times the odds of being admitted for mental health problems (P = 0.08) during the year. Elevated rates of hospital admittance disappear in models controlling for number of specialty care depression visits in the previous month. Rural subjects reported significantly more suicide attempts during the period of 1 year (P = 0.05).


Additional work is warranted to determine how to alter barriers to outpatient specialty care if the rural health care delivery system is to provide cost-effective depression care.

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