Background: In 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, causing unprecedented damage and loss in the mountain and hill regions of central Nepal. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between healthcare access and utilization, and post-disaster mental health symptoms. Methods: A cross-sectional study conducted with 750 disaster-affected individuals in six districts in central Nepal 15 months post-earthquake. Anxiety and depression were measured through the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21). Healthcare utilization questions examined types of healthcare in the communities, utilization, and approachability of care providers. Univariate analyses, ANOVAs and Tobit regression were used. Results: Depression and anxiety symptoms were significantly higher for females and individuals between 40-50 years old. Those who utilized a district hospital had the lowest anxiety and depression scores. Participants who indicated medical shops were the most important source of health-related information had more anxiety and depression than those who used other services. Higher quality of healthcare was significantly associated with fewer anxiety and depressive symptoms. Conclusions: Mental health symptoms can last long after a disaster occurs. Access to quality mental health care in the primary health care settings is critical to help individuals and communities recover immediately and during the long-term recovery.
Keywords: access to care; disaster; healthcare utilization; mental health.