Impact of Prior and Current Alcohol Use on Use of Services by Patients with Depression and Chronic Medical Illnesses

Published in: HSR: Health Services Research, v. 30, no. 5, Dec. 1995, p. 687-705

Posted on RAND.org on December 01, 1995

by Catherine A. Jackson, Willard G. Manning, Kenneth B. Wells

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OBJECTIVE. Alcohol use often co-occurs with other major chronic conditions, but its effect on health care utilization in this context is not understood. This study examines the impact of alcohol consumption on health care use by patients with chronic medical conditions or depression, or both. DATA SOURCES/STUDY SETTING. Data came from the Medical Outcomes Study, an observational study of patients from the offices of general medical providers and mental health specialists in three U.S. cities. STUDY DESIGN. Longitudinal data spanning four years for outpatient general medical visits and outpatient mental health visits were analyzed using a two-part model to assess the impact of alcohol use disorder, problem drinking, and current and past alcohol consumption on health care use by patients, controlling for patient demographics and health status. DATA COLLECTION/EXTRACTION METHODS. Data were collected from 2,546 adult patients with hypertension, diabetes, heart disease (congestive heart failure or myocardial infarction), and/or current major depression or subthreshold depression using periodic, self-report surveys detailing health care utilization and health status information. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS. Current alcohol consumption increases outpatient doctor visits, and problems related to current drinking decrease outpatient mental health visits. CONCLUSIONS. Patterns of alcohol consumption have an impact on both mental health and overall health care use by patients with chronic medical conditions or depression.

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