Depression, Physical Health Impairment and Service Use Among Older Adults

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The purposes of this study were: (1) to compare service use and need among 80 community-dwelling older adults (55 women and 25 men); and (2) to examine the influence of depression on service use and need. Participants were divided into three groups based on their depression scores (no depression, mild depression, severe depression) and compared on a wide range of services (e.g., medical services, social/recreational, transportation) typically used by older adults. There were no significant differences among the three groups for demographic characteristics and chronic illness types, but there were significant differences for physical health impairment (PHI). When controlling for PHI, significant differences were found among the groups for mental health services, psychotropic medications, number of sick days, hospitalizations, home help, frequency of transportation, social/recreational services, and sports-related activities. Mildly and severely depressed older adults used and needed more medical services than did their non-depressed cohorts, but used less of other types of services (e.g., social/recreational services). Depression was a significant predictor of social/recreational service use, and for need of mental health services, psychotropic medications, financial assistance, and assessment and referral services. A consistent pattern was found of depression influencing service use and need.

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