Objective: To examine the rate at which adults seek services for mental disorders from different categories of physicians.
Method: The study used billing data from all physicians during a 3-year period for the total adult population of the province of Alberta.
Results: During the 3-year period, 35% of adults consulted a physician and were given a mental disorder diagnosis. The highest rates of consultation were for anxiety disorders (21%), followed by mood disorders (depression) (16%). Among patients, 84% were seen by primary care physicians only, and 3% were seen solely by psychiatrists. The more serious the diagnosing (for example, psychosis) the more likely patients were to be seen by psychiatrists.
Conclusions: These results show that the 3-year prevalence rate includes more than one-third of the entire adult population. These figures differ considerably from those derived from population surveys in showing markedly higher prevalence (and treatment) rates. The number of people treated in primary care far exceeds those treated in the specialist sector.