Purpose: The purpose was to investigate inequalities in access to care among people with possible depression.
Method: In this nationwide register-based cohort study of 30,593 persons, we observed the association between socioeconomic position (SEP, education/income) and mental health care use (MHCU) four months before the date of first redeemed antidepressant (Index Date/ID) and 12 months afterwards-and time to contact to psychologist/psychiatrist (PP). Logistic, Poisson, and Cox regression models were used, adjusted for sex, age, cohabitation, and psychiatric comorbidity.
Results: Before ID, high SEP was associated with less GP contact (general practitioner), higher odds ratios for GP-Mental Health Counseling (GP-MHC), psychologist contact, and admissions to hospital. This disparity decreased the following 12 months for GP-MHC but increased for contact to psychologist; same pattern was seen for rate of visits. However, the low-income group had more contact to private psychiatrist. For the 25,217 individuals with no MHCU before ID, higher educational level was associated with almost twice the rate of contact to PP the following 12 months; for the high-income group, the rate was 40% higher. 10% had contact to PP within 40 days after ID in the group with higher education; whereas, 10% of those with a short education would reach PP by day 120. High-income group had faster access as well.
Conclusion: Being in high SEP was positively associated with MHCU, before and after ID, and more rapid PP contact, most explicit when measured by education. Co-payment for psychologist may divert care towards private psychiatrist for low-income groups.
Keywords: Access to health care; Antidepressants; Inequality; Mental health services; Socioeconomic factors.