Objective: We examined the mental health needs of poor young women seen in public-sector gynecologic settings.
Study design: Participants were 205 ethnically diverse women, mean age 29 years, seen by gynecologists at San Francisco General Hospital, all either uninsured or receiving public medical assistance. An interview with an instrument designed to diagnose mood, anxiety, alcohol, and eating disorders in medical patients, the Prime-MD, was used to assess current mental disorders. Any history of sexual or other physical assault was recorded. Receipt of primary care was scored for comprehensiveness.
Results: The rates of current psychiatric disorders were extremely high; 21.5% had current major depression. The prevalence of anxiety disorders was also elevated among these women. Many had a history of sexual trauma, and 28% had been the victims of unwanted intercourse. Finally, many reported behaviors that pose serious health risks. For example, 32% smoked and 2% used illicit drugs. Fewer than half had access to comprehensive primary medical care.
Conclusions: Young, poor women who seek care in public-sector gynecologic clinics would benefit from comprehensive medical care addressing their psychosocial needs.