Home visits by commissioned welfare volunteers and psychological distress: a population-based study of 11,312 community-dwelling older people in Japan

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Abstract

Objective:

Novel countermeasures to increase healthcare expenditures should be explored in rapidly aging societies, including Japan. Social support is a resource for the older people that effectively reduces psychological distress, with or without specialized health service provision. This cross-sectional study was conducted to determine whether home visits by commissioned welfare volunteers (organizations of community residents assigned by national or local governments) are associated with a lower risk of psychological distress among the older people.

Methods:

Questionnaires were sent in August 2010 to all residents aged ≥65 years in three municipalities (n = 21,232) in Okayama Prefecture in Japan; 13,929 were returned (response rate = 65.6%). The final sample size for the analysis was 11,312 participants. Home visits, psychological distress (Kessler Psychological Distress Scale: K6 > 5), and severe psychological distress (K6 > 13) were measured by the questionnaire. We calculated odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for psychological distress, adjusting for age, gender, education, marital status, and qualification for long-term care insurance.

Results:

The prevalence was 41.4% for psychological distress and 6.5% for severe psychological distress among all participants. Home visits were significantly associated with a lower risk of psychological distress after adjusting for the covariates (OR: 0.71, 95% CI: 0.65–0.77). These associations were comparable for men and women. The association was clearer for severe psychological distress (OR: 0.51, 95% CI: 0.43–0.61).

Conclusions:

Home visits by commissioned welfare volunteers are significantly associated with a lower risk of psychological distress among older people. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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