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Physical health and gender as risk factors for usage of services for mental illness
  1. Flora I Matheson1,2,3,
  2. Katherine L W Smith1,
  3. Ghazal S Fazli1,
  4. Rahim Moineddin2,4,
  5. James R Dunn1,2,5,
  6. Richard H Glazier1,2,3,4,6
  1. 1Centre for Research on Inner City Health at The Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  5. 5Department of Health, Aging and Society, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada
  6. 6Department of Family and Community Medicine, St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Flora I Matheson, Centre for Research on Inner City Health, 30 Bond Street, St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada M5B 1W8; mathesonf{at}


Background People with comorbid mental and physical illness (PI) experience worse health, inadequate care and increased mortality relative to those without mental illness (MI). The role of gender in this relationship is not fully understood. This study examined gender differences in onset of mental health service usage among people with physical illness (COPD, asthma, hypertension and type II diabetes) compared with a control cohort.

Methods We used a unique linked dataset consisting of the 2000–2001 Canadian Community Health Survey and medical records (n=17 050) to examine risk of onset of MI among those with and without PI among Ontario residents (18–74 years old) over a 10-year period (2002–2011). Adjusted COX proportional survival analysis was conducted.

Results Unadjusted use of MI medical services in the PI cohort was 55.6% among women and 44.7% (p=0.0001) among men; among controls 48.1% of the women and 36.7% of the men used MI medical services (p=0.0001). The relative risk of usage among women in the PI group relative to controls was 1.16. Among men, the relative risk was 1.22. Women were 1.45 times more likely to use MI medical services relative to men (HR=1.45, CI 1.35 to 1.55). Respondents in the PI cohort were 1.32 times more likely to use MI medical services (HR=1.32, CI 1.23 to 1.42) relative to controls. Women in the PI cohort used MI medical services 6.4 months earlier than PI males (p=0.0059). In the adjusted model, women with PI were most likely to use MI medical services, followed by women controls, men with PI and men controls. There was no significant interaction between gender and PI cohort.

Conclusions Further, gender-based research focusing on onset of usage of MI services among those with and without chronic health problems will enable better understanding of gender-based health disparities to improve healthcare quality, delivery and public health policy.

  • Cohort studies
  • Gender
  • Health Services
  • Mental Health
  • Chronic DI

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