Mental disorders and access to medical care in the United States

Am J Psychiatry. 1998 Dec;155(12):1775-7. doi: 10.1176/ajp.155.12.1775.


Objective: The authors examined the barriers to receipt of medical services among people reporting mental disorders in a representative sample of U.S. adults.

Method: The sample was drawn from adults who responded to the 1994 National Health Interview Survey (N=77,183). The authors studied the association between report of a mental disorder and 1) access to health insurance and a primary provider, and 2) actual receipt of medical care. Multivariate techniques were used to model problems with access as a function of mental disorders, controlling for demographic, insurance, and health variables.

Results: While people who reported mental disorders showed no difference from those without mental disorders in likelihood of being uninsured or of having a primary care provider, they were twice as likely to report having been denied insurance because of a preexisting condition or having stayed in their job for fear of losing their health benefits. Among respondents with insurance, those who reported mental illness were no less likely to have a primary care provider but were about two times more likely to report having delayed seeking needed medical care because of cost or having been unable to obtain needed medical care.

Conclusions: People who reported mental disorders experienced significant barriers to receipt of medical care. Efforts to measure and improve access to health care for this population may need to go beyond simply providing insurance benefits or access to general medical providers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Delivery of Health Care / economics
  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Practice / economics
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health / economics
  • Insurance, Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Insurance, Psychiatric / economics
  • Insurance, Psychiatric / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Primary Health Care / economics
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • United States