Divorce, divorce rates, and professional care seeking for mental health problems in Europe: a cross-sectional population-based study

Bracke, Piet F.; Colman, Elien; Symoens, Sara A. A.; Van Praag, Lore
January 2010
BMC Public Health;2010, Vol. 10 Issue 1, p224
Academic Journal
Background: Little is known about differences in professional care seeking based on marital status. The few existing studies show more professional care seeking among the divorced or separated compared to the married or cohabiting. The aim of this study is to determine whether, in a sample of the European general population, the divorced or separated seek more professional mental health care than the married or cohabiting, regardless of selfreported mental health problems. Furthermore, we examine whether two country-level features-the supply of mental health professionals and the country-level divorce rates-contribute to marital status differences in professional care-seeking behavior. Methods: We use data from the Eurobarometer 248 on mental well-being that was collected via telephone interviews. The unweighted sample includes 27,146 respondents (11,728 men and 15,418 women). Poisson hierarchical regression models were estimated to examine whether the divorced or separated have higher professional health care use for emotional or psychological problems, after controlling for mental and somatic health, sociodemographic characteristics, support from family and friends, and degree of urbanization. We also considered country-level divorce rates and indicators of the supply of mental health professionals, and applied design and population weights. Results: We find that professional care seeking is strongly need based. Moreover, the divorced or separated consult health professionals for mental health problems more often than people who are married or who cohabit do. In addition, we find that the gap between the divorced or separated and the married or cohabiting is highest in countries with low divorce rates. Conclusions: The higher rates of professional care seeking for mental health problems among the divorced or separated only partially correlates with their more severe mental health problems. In countries where marital dissolution is more common, the marital status gap in professional care seeking is narrower, partially because professional care seeking is more common among the married or cohabiting.


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