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

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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
JournalBMJ open
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 17 Mar 2021


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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