Mental distress is an independent risk factor for illness related impairment. Awareness of mental health (MH) allows prevention, but early detection is not routinely performed in primary care. This cohort study incorporated MH assessment in a health promoting programme. We described the level of poor MH among health check participants, explored the potential for early intervention, and the potential for reducing social inequality in MH. The study was based on 9767 randomly selected citizens aged 30-49 years invited to a health check in Denmark in 2012-14. A total of 4871 (50%) were included; 49% were men. Poor MH was defined as a mental component summary score of ≤ 35.76 in the SF-12 Health Survey. Data was obtained from national health registers and health check. Participants with poor MH (9%) were more socioeconomic disadvantaged and had poorer health than those with better MH. Two thirds of men (64%) and half of women (50%) with poor MH had not received MH care one year before the health check. Among those with (presumably) unrecognized MH problems, the proportion of participants with disadvantaged socioeconomic characteristics was high (43-55%). Four out of five of those with apparently unacknowledged poor MH had seen their GP only once or not at all during the one year before the health check. In conclusion, MH assessment in health check may help identify yet undiscovered MH problems.
Keywords: General practice; Health promotion; Mental health; Preventive health services; Primary health care.