Effect of depression on health service utilisation in men: a prospective cohort study of Australian men aged 35 to 80 years

Sean Martin, Ian Zajac, Andrew Vincent, Robert J. Adams, Sarah Appleton, Gary A. Wittert

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    Objectives To examine the relationship between depression burden, health service utilisation and depression diagnosis in community-based men. Design Prospective cohort study. Setting Community-based. Participants Men aged 35-80 years at recruitment (2002-2005), randomly selected from the northern and western suburbs of Adelaide, Australia, without depression at baseline, who attended follow-up visits (2007-2010) (n=1464). Primary and secondary outcome measures Depression symptoms were categorised into high burden (total score of ≥13 for the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) or ≥10 for the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) or low burden (<13 for the BDI or <10 for the CES-D). Diagnosed depression was determined by patient-reported physician diagnosis. Frequent general practitioner (GP) visits were those occurring 5+ times over the preceding year. Use of national medical and prescription services (Medicare Benefit Schedule and Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme; MBS and PBS) was assessed through data linkage. Results Frequent attendance and depression diagnosis was more common in men with a high than low burden of depression symptoms (45.9% vs 29.3%-18.7% vs 1.9%, p<0.001). Depression diagnoses were also more common in frequent GP attenders compared with low-average attenders (5.1% vs 2.2%, p<0.001). Among men with high burden of symptoms, there was no age-adjusted or multi-adjusted difference for likelihood of depression diagnosis between non-regular and frequent GP attenders. Annualised MBS and PBS expenditure was highest for men with undiagnosed depression. Conclusions Men with a high burden of depression symptoms have commensurate use of health services when compared with those with a low burden, but only half report a physician diagnosis of depression. Undiagnosed depression led to a higher usage of medical and prescription services.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere044893
    Number of pages10
    JournalBMJ Open
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


    • depression & mood disorders
    • epidemiology
    • primary care
    • public health


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