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Health Serv Res. 1994 June; 29(2): 135–153.
PMCID: PMC1069995

Ethnic differences in use of inpatient mental health services by blacks, whites, and Hispanics in a national insured population.


OBJECTIVE. We examine whether ethnic differences in use of inpatient mental health services exist when the usually confounding effects of minority status and culture are minimized or controlled. DATA SOURCES AND STUDY SETTING. Secondary analyses were conducted using a national insurance claims database for 1.2 million federal employees and their dependents insured by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BC/BS) Federal Employees Plan (FEP). STUDY DESIGN. The Andersen-Newman model of health utilization was used to analyze predisposing, enabling, and need variables as predictors of inpatient mental health utilization during 1983. The study design was cross-sectional. DATA COLLECTION. The study database was made up of BC/BS insurance claims, Office of Personnel Management employee data, and Area Resource File data. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS. No significant differences were found among blacks, whites, and Hispanics in the probability of a psychiatric hospitalization or in the number of inpatient psychiatric days. Regression analyses revealed younger age and psychiatric treatment of other family members as significant predictors of a hospitalization; region of residence, younger age, hospital bed availability, and high option plan enrollment were significant predictors of the number of treatment days. CONCLUSIONS. Ethnic differences in use of inpatient mental health services were not significant in this generously insured population. Further research involving primary data collection among large and diverse samples of ethnic individuals is needed to fully examine the effects of cultural and socioeconomic differences on use of mental health services.

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