Objective: To assess the association between rurality and depression care.
Methods: Data were extracted for 10,319 individuals with self-reported depression in the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Pharmacotherapy was defined as an antidepressant prescription fill, and minimally adequate pharmacotherapy was defined as receipt of at least 4 antidepressant fills. Psychotherapy was defined as an outpatient counseling visit, and minimally adequate psychotherapy was defined as > or = 8 visits. Rurality was defined using Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and Rural Urban Continuum Codes (RUCCs).
Results: Over the year, 65.1% received depression treatment, including 58.8% with at least 1 antidepressant prescription fill and 24.5% with at least 1 psychotherapy visit. Among those in treatment, 56.2% had minimally adequate pharmacotherapy treatment and 36.3% had minimally adequate psychotherapy treatment. Overall, there were no significant rural-urban differences in receipt of any type of formal depression treatment. However, rural residence was associated with significantly higher odds of receiving pharmacotherapy (MSA: OR 1.16 [95% CI, 1.01-1.34; P= .04] and RUCC: OR 1.04 [95% CI, 1.00-1.08; P= .05]), and significantly lower odds of receiving psychotherapy (MSA: OR 0.62 [95% CI, 0.53-0.74; P < .01] and RUCC: OR 0.91 [95% CI, 0.88-0.94; P < .001]). Rural residence was not significantly associated with the adequacy of pharmacotherapy, but it was significantly associated with the adequacy of psychotherapy (MSA: OR 0.53 [95% CI, 0.41-0.69; P < .01] and RUCC: OR 0.92 [95% CI, 0.86-0.99; P= .02]). Psychiatrists per capita were a mediator in the psychotherapy analyses.
Conclusions: Rural individuals are more reliant on pharmacotherapy than psychotherapy. This may be a concern if individuals in rural areas turn to pharmacotherapy because psychotherapists are unavailable rather than because they have a preference for pharmacotherapy.