Article

The Role of Social Network and Support in Mental Health Service Use: Findings From the Baltimore ECA Study

Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, 624 N. Broadway St., Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.
Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.) (Impact Factor: 2.41). 09/2009; 60(9):1222-9. DOI: 10.1176/appi.ps.60.9.1222
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

A significant number of people with mental illness do not use mental health services to receive treatment for their symptoms. This study examined the hypothesis that social network and social support affect mental health service use.
Data were from the Baltimore cohort of the Epidemiologic Catchment Area study, a prospective cohort study that gathered data over four time points. This study examined data gathered in 1993-1996 (N=1,920) and 2004-2005 (N=1,071). The study examined indicators of social network and social support in relation to four types of service use (general medical, mental health within general medical, specialty psychiatric, and other human services) with multivariate logistic regression. Examples of other human services include a self-help group or crisis center for help with any psychological problem. Weighted generalized estimating equations were used for the analyses.
Among persons with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or alcohol use disorder in the past year or psychological distress in the past few weeks, general medical service use was reduced when the frequency of contact with relatives or friends occurred less than daily, but it was increased by about 40% when there was a higher than median level of spousal support. In contrast, receiving general medical services for mental health problems was reduced by about 50% when there was a higher than median level of social support from relatives. Specialty psychiatric service use was reduced when there was regular contact with six or more relatives and there was a higher than median level of social support from friends and relatives. None of the social network or social support measures were significantly (p</=.01) associated with use of other human services.
Increased contact with the social network and higher levels of social support were associated with greater use of general medical services. However, more social support was associated with use of fewer services within the specialty psychiatric sector.

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