Measuring use of services for mental health problems in epidemiological surveys

Int J Methods Psychiatr Res. 2011 Sep;20(3):182-91. doi: 10.1002/mpr.346. Epub 2011 Aug 7.


The use of services for mental problems is generally reported as being relatively low. However, the methods used for data collection in surveys may have influenced the quality of self-reported service use. This study compares the information on recourse to physicians for mental problems reported in different sections of a survey conducted in six European countries. Thus, 5545 respondents were asked questions on contacts with physicians at least twice: (1) after the symptoms checklist in any completed diagnostic section, and (2) in a section devoted to use of care for mental problems. Of these 39.3% reported contacts with physicians about mental problems in the diagnostic sections, whereas 29.5% did so in the use-of-care section. Inconsistencies concerned 20.1% of participants, among whom those reporting consultations in diagnostic sections without reporting them in the use-of-care section represented the majority (74.4%). Multiple logistic regression analysis revealed that age, marital status, educational level and country were associated with under-reporting in the use-of-care section, as well as having mood or sleep problems. In conclusion, services used for mental health reasons when measured through a question referring to use of care due to the presence of a mental problem may underestimate the care people received for their problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Global Health
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult