Gender disparities in utilization, unmet need and expenditure for mental health care

Gul Nowshad, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Objectives: To compare mental health care utilization regarding the source, types, and intensity of mental health services received, unmet need for services, and out of pocket cost among non-institutionalized psychologically distressed women and men. Method: Cross-sectional data for 19,325 non-institutionalized mentally distressed adult respondents to the “The National Survey on Drug Use and Health” (NSDUH), for the years 2006 -2008, representing over twenty-nine millions U.S. adults was analyzed. To assess the relative odds for women compared to men, logistic regression analysis was used for source of service, for types of barriers, for unmet need and cost; zero inflated negative binomial regression for intensity of utilization; and ordinal logistic regression analysis for quantifying out-of-pocket expenditure. Results: Overall, 43% of mentally distressed adults utilized a form of mental health treatment; representing 12.6 million U.S psychologically distressed adults. Females utilized more mental health care compared to males in the previous 12 months (OR: 1. 70; 95% CI: 1.54, 1.83). Similarly, females were 54% more likely to get help for psychological distress in an outpatient setting and females were associated with an increased probability of using medication for mental distress (OR: 1.72; 95% CI: 1.63, 1.98). Women were 1.25 times likelier to visit a mental health center (specialty care) than men. Females were positively associated with unmet needs (OR: 1.50; 95% CI: 1.29, 1.75) after taking into account predisposing, enabling, and need (PEN) characteristics. Women with perceived unmet needs were 23% (OR: 0.77; 95% CI: 0.59, 0.99) less likely than men to report societal accommodation (stigma) as a barrier to mental health care. At any given cutoff point, women were 1.74 times likelier to be in the higher payment categories for inpatient out of pocket cost when other variables in the model are held constant. Conclusions: Women utilize more specialty mental healthcare, report more unmet need, and pay more inpatient out of pocket costs than men. These gender disparities exist even after controlling for predisposing, enabling, and need variables. Creating policies that not only provide mental health care access but also de-stigmatize mental illness will bring us one step closer to eliminating gender disparities in mental health care.

Subject Area

Mental health|Public health|Gender studies

Recommended Citation

Nowshad, Gul, "Gender disparities in utilization, unmet need and expenditure for mental health care" (2011). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3464859.