Mental Health Status and Use of General Medical Services for Persons with Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Published in: Medical Care, v. 43, no. 8, Aug. 2005, p. 834-839

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2004

by Geoffrey F. Joyce, Kitty S. Chan, Maria Orlando Edelen, M. Audrey Burnam

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BACKGROUND: Serious medical illness often is accompanied by psychological distress. Individuals experiencing mental disorders or symptoms have higher rates of morbidity and mortality, worse social functioning, and use of general medical services. OBJECTIVES: We sought to examine the association between mental health and use of general medical services for persons in care for HIV. DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS: We used longitudinal data from the HIV Cost and Services Utilization Study (HCSUS), a nationally representative sample of 2267 HIV+ adults receiving care and who completed all 3 interviews during an 18-month period. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Probability of use and general medical expenditures, by type of service. RESULTS: HIV+ individuals who screened positive for depression or had 5 or more mental health symptoms at baseline spent 20% to 25% more for general medical services in the following 12 months than HIV+ adults without mental health symptoms, after adjusting for disease severity and patient characteristics. Higher spending was largely the result of greater use of inpatient and emergency services. CONCLUSIONS: Psychological distress remains an independent predictor of general medical service use, although the magnitude of effect diminishes with better controls for physical well-being and previous service use. Identifying HIV patients with symptoms of affective or anxiety disorders may reduce overall treatment costs modestly.

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