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Men and Women Use Mental Health Services Differently
By Geoff Koehler
St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto

Women with chronic physical illnesses are more likely to use mental health services than men with similar illnesses, and they also seek out mental health services six months earlier than those same men, according to new study from Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

“Chronic physical illness can lead to depression,” said Flora Matheson, PhD, a scientist in the hospital’s Centre for Research on Inner City Health. “We want to better understand who will 

seek mental health services when diagnosed with a chronic physical illness so we can best help those who need care.”

Published June 26, the findings looked at people diagnosed with at least one of four physical illnesses: diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Researchers found that among those with at least one of these four illnesses, women were 10 percent more likely to use mental health services than men. Furthermore, within any three-year period, women with physical illness used medical services for mental health treatment six months earlier than men.

“Our results don’t necessarily mean that more focus should be paid to women, however,” said Matheson, who is also an adjunct scientist at ICES. “We still need more research to understand why this gender divide exists.”
The results may imply that women are more comfortable seeking mental health support than men. 

Alternatively, the gender discrepancy might mean that symptoms are worse among women, requiring more women to seek help and sooner, or that men defer seeking treatment for mental health concerns.

The study used data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, physicians’ claims, and in-patient medical records from ICES. Mental illness service use was defined as one visit to a physician or specialist for mental health reasons, such as depression, anxiety, or smoking addiction sessions.

Source: St. Michael’s Hospital press release. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto. ICES is an independent, nonprofit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Findings from this research were published in the British Medical Journal’s Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.


Research Debunks Link Between Suicidal Behavior and ADHD Drugs

A new study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden shows that drug therapy for ADHD does not entail an increased risk of suicide attempts or suicide, as was previously feared. 

“Our work in several ways shows that most likely there is no link between treatment with ADHD drugs and an increased risk of suicide attempts or suicide. The results rather indicate that ADHD drugs may have a 

protective effect,” says Henrik Larsson, of the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, who headed the study.

Earlier research has indicated that ADHD drug treatment would increase the occurrence of suicidal thoughts. However, these studies have been small-scale and/or the methods used have been limited, which make the results uncertain. To gain clarity, the Karolinska researchers used national patient registers to identify all patients in Sweden diagnosed with ADHD between 1960 and 1996; a total of 37,936 individuals. These people were then followed over the period 2006-2009, in terms of drug treatment and events that could be linked to suicide attempts and suicide.

Among other things, the study compared the rate of suicidal behaviors while the patients were receiving ADHD medication, as compared with the rate for the same patients while not receiving medication. Using this design, the researchers were able to determine that there was no evidence to support that ADHD drug therapy would increase the risk of suicide attempts or suicide. One strong point of the study now being published is that all the individuals were compared to themselves, as this allowed the researchers to take into account the differences between those taking the drugs and those who did not.

“Many epidemiological studies on the risks related to drugs fail to adjust for the differences among individuals who take the drugs and those who do not. This is a critical limitation given that the individuals on medication are usually more severely ill than the others,” says Larsson.

Source: Karolinska Institutet press release. Read full article:“Drug Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Suicidal Behaviour: Register-Based Study,”by Qi Chen, et al, British Medical Journal, posted online 18 June 2014.

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