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Physical health and gender as risk factors for usage of services for mental illness


Background — People with comorbid mental and physical illness (PI) experience worse health, inadequate care and increased mortality relative to those without mental illness (MI). The role of gender in this relationship is not fully understood. This study examined gender differences in onset of mental health service usage among people with physical illness (COPD, asthma, hypertension and type II diabetes) compared with a control cohort.

Methods — The researchers used a unique linked dataset consisting of the 2000–2001 Canadian Community Health Survey and medical records (n=17 050) to examine risk of onset of MI among those with and without PI among Ontario residents (18–74 years old) over a 10-year period (2002–2011). Adjusted COX proportional survival analysis was conducted.

Results — Unadjusted use of MI medical services in the PI cohort was 55.6% among women and 44.7% (p=0.0001) among men; among controls 48.1% of the women and 36.7% of the men used MI medical services (p=0.0001). The relative risk of usage among women in the PI group relative to controls was 1.16. Among men, the relative risk was 1.22. Women were 1.45 times more likely to use MI medical services relative to men (HR=1.45, CI 1.35 to 1.55). Respondents in the PI cohort were 1.32 times more likely to use MI medical services (HR=1.32, CI 1.23 to 1.42) relative to controls. Women in the PI cohort used MI medical services 6.4 months earlier than PI males (p=0.0059). In the adjusted model, women with PI were most likely to use MI medical services, followed by women controls, men with PI and men controls. There was no significant interaction between gender and PI cohort.

Conclusions — Further, gender-based research focusing on onset of usage of MI services among those with and without chronic health problems will enable better understanding of gender-based health disparities to improve healthcare quality, delivery and public health policy.



Matheson FI, Smith KL, Fazli GS, Moineddin R, Dunn JR, Glazier RH. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2014; 68(10):971-8. Epub 2014 Jun 25.

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