Depression in the elderly is associated with multiple adverse outcomes, such as high health service utilization rates, low pharmacological compliance, and synergistic interactions with other comorbidities. Moreover, the help seeking process, which usually starts with the feeling “that something is wrong” and ends with appropriate medical care, is influenced by several factors.
The aim of this study was to explore factors associated with the pathway of help seeking among older adults with depressive symptoms.
A cross-sectional study of 60-year or older of community dwelling elderly belonging to the largest health and social security system in Mexico was done. A standardized interview explored the process of seeking health care in four dimensions: depressive symptoms, help seeking, help acquisition and specialized mental health.
A total of 2,322 individuals were studied; from these, 67.14% (n=1,559) were women, and the mean age was 73.18 years (SD=7.02) 57.9% had symptoms of depression, 337 (25.1%) participants sought help, and 271 (80.4%) received help and 103 (38%) received specialized mental health care. In the stepwise model for not seeking help (χ2=81.66, p<0.0001), significant variables were female gender (OR=0.07 95% CI 0.511–0.958 p=0.026), health care use (OR 3.26 CI 95% 1.64–6.488, p=0.001). Number of years in school, difficulty in activities, SAST score and depression as a disease belief were also significant.
Appropriate mental health care is rather complex and is influenced by several factors. The main factors associated with help seeking were gender, education level, recent health service use, and the belief that depression is not a disease. Detection of subjects with these characteristics could improve care of elderly with depressive symptoms.