Objective: This study compared the prevalence of depression and the determinants of mental health service use in Canada and the United States.
Methods: The study used data from preliminary analyses of the 2003 Joint Canada/United States Survey of Health, which measured Canadian (N=3,505) and United States (N=5,183) resident ratings of health and health care services. Cross-national comparisons were made for the 12-month prevalence of DSM-IV major depression, 12-month service use for mental health reasons according to the type of professional seen, and determinants of service use.
Results: The rates of depression were similar in Canada (8.2%) and the United States (8.7%). However, U.S. respondents without medical insurance were twice as likely as Canadian respondents and U.S. respondents with medical insurance to meet the criteria for depression. Rates of mental health service use did not differ between Canada (10.1%) and the United States (10.6%). In the United States, medical insurance was not a determinant factor of service use. However, U.S. respondents with no medical insurance were more likely than the other two groups to report an unmet need. Also, among those with depression, U.S. respondents with no medical insurance were less likely to use any type of mental health service (36.5%) than U.S. respondents with medical insurance (55.7%) and Canadians (55.7%). Further, a positive correlation between a mental health need and service use was observed in Canada but not for those without medical insurance in the United States.
Conclusions: There was no difference in the prevalence of depression and mental health service use between Canada and the United States. Among those with depression, however, disparities in treatment seeking were found to be associated with medical insurance in the United States. Both Canada and the United States need to improve access to health services for those with mental disorders, and special attention is needed for those without medical insurance in the United States.