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Empirical data on the use of services due to mental health problems in older adults in Europe is lacking. The objective of this study is to identify factors associated with service utilization in the elderly.
As part of the MentDis_ICF65+ study, N = 3,142 people aged 65–84 living in the community in six European and associated countries were interviewed. Based on Andersen's behavioral model predisposing, enabling, and need factors were analyzed with logistic regression analyses.
Overall, 7% of elderly and 11% of those with a mental disorder had used a service due to mental health problems in the last 12 months. Factors significantly associated with underuse were male sex, lower education, living in the London catchment area, higher functional impairment and more comorbid mental disorders. The most frequently reported barrier to service use was personal beliefs, e.g. “I can deal with my problem on my own” (90%).
Underutilization of mental health services among older people in the European community is common and interventions are needed to achieve an adequate use of services.
Except for dementia and depression, little is known about common mental disorders in elderly people.
To estimate current, 12-month and lifetime prevalence rates of mental disorders in different European and associated countries using a standardised diagnostic interview adapted to measure the cognitive needs of elderly people.
The MentDis_ICF65+ study is based on an age-stratified, random sample of 3142 older men and women (65–84 years) living in selected catchment community areas of participating countries.
One in two individuals had experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime, one in three within the past year and nearly one in four currently had a mental disorder. The most prevalent disorders were anxiety disorders, followed by affective and substance-related disorders.
Compared with previous studies we found substantially higher prevalence rates for most mental disorders. These findings underscore the need for improving diagnostic assessments adapted to the cognitive capacity of elderly people. There is a need to raise awareness of psychosocial problems in elderly people and to deliver high-quality mental health services to these individuals.