Background: Depressive symptoms are associated with increased healthcare utilization. However, it is unclear whether depressed individuals experience more or less frequent access to preventive services. Our goal was to investigate the association between depressive symptoms and both utilization of healthcare and preventive services.
Methods: Baseline self-reported data (2004) from non-institutionalized individuals aged > or =50 years participating in the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) were used. Of the 18,560 respondents to the baseline questionnaire, 13,580 answered the supplementary questionnaire, which included measures of preventive services. Healthcare utilization during the previous 12 months, including outpatient visits, medication, hospitalization, surgery, and home healthcare were assessed. Preventive service measures assessed the participation in influenza immunization and colorectal and breast cancer screening. Depression status was assessed with the EURO-D, a validated instrument for which a score >3 defines clinically significant depressive symptoms. Logistic regressions were performed adjusting for age, gender, socioeconomic status, behavioral risk, chronic disease, disability, and country of residence.
Results: The estimated prevalence of depressive symptoms was 28.2%. Depressive symptoms were associated with significantly greater use of all healthcare domains but not preventive services, with the exception of colorectal cancer screening. Similar trends were found for each country of residence and for both genders.
Limitations: It was not known whether medical tests were used for screening or diagnostic purposes.
Conclusions: SHARE data suggest that patients with depressive symptoms are frequent users of healthcare but not preventive services. Low screening rates may reflect missed screening opportunities rather than a lack of screening opportunities.