Trends in levels of self-reported psychological distress among individuals who seek psychiatric services over eight years: a comparison between age groups in three population surveys in Stockholm County
Psychiatric service use has increased in Sweden and in other developed countries, particularly among young people. Possible explanations include lower threshold for help-seeking among young people, but evidence is scarce.
We analysed the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Stockholm public health surveys for changes in the mean level of psychological distress among adult users of psychiatric in- and outpatient services in four age groups: 18–24, 25–44, 45–64 and ≥65 years. Psychological distress was measured via the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), using the Likert scoring method 0–1–2-3. In- and out-patient psychiatric service use within 6 months from the surveys was obtained from registers.
The mean level of distress among young adults 18–24 years who utilize psychiatric services decreased between 2002 (mean GHQ-12 score, 95% confidence interval 20.5, 18.1–23.0) and 2010 (16.2, 14.6–17.7), while it remained fairly stable in older age groups. Results were similar in sex-stratified analyses, although the decrease was statistically significant only among young women 18–24 years. At the end of the follow-up, the level of distress among patients was similar for all age-groups.
There were no differences between age groups in the level of distress when seeking care at the end of the follow-up period, supporting that there is no age-specific over- or under-consumption of psychiatric care in later years. However, the lowered threshold for help-seeking among young adults over time might have contributed to increases in psychiatric service use in the young age group. Public health policy and service delivery planning should consider the needs of the widening group of young users of psychiatric services.
Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12888-017-1499-4
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