General practice and mental health care: determinants of outpatient service use

Can J Psychiatry. 2009 Jul;54(7):468-76. doi: 10.1177/070674370905400708.


Objective: To examine the determinants that lead Canadian adults to consult family physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, and other health professionals for mental health reasons and to compare the determinants of service use across provider types.

Method: Data from the Canadian Community Health Survey: Mental Health and Well-Being were used for people aged 18 years and older (n = 35,236). A multivariate logistic regression was used to model outpatient consultations with different providers as a function of predictive determinants.

Result: Three types of variables were examined: need, enabling, and predisposing factors. Among need, the most common predictors of service use for mental health reasons were self-rated mental health, the presence of chronic conditions, depression and panic attacks, unmet mental health needs, psychological well-being, and the ability to handle daily demands. Among enabling factors, emotional and informational support and income were important predictors. Among predisposing factors, men were less likely to consult with a family physician and other resources but not with psychiatrists; and people with less education were less likely to consult psychologists and other health providers.

Conclusion: Need factors were the most important predictors of both psychiatrist and combined family physician and psychiatrist consultation in the previous year. However, sex barriers remain and promotion campaigns in seeking mental health care should be aimed toward men. Further, education and income barriers exist in the use of specialty providers of psychotherapy and policies should thus focus on rendering these services more accessible to disadvantaged people.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Canada
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Resources / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Psychotherapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Utilization Review / statistics & numerical data