Use of formal and informal sources of mental health care among older African-American public-housing residents

B. S. Black, P. V. Rabins, P. German, R. Roca, M. McGuire, L. J. Brant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background. Elderly residents of public housing have high rates of psychiatric disorders, but most of those in need of care do not use any mental health service. This study examines the use of formal and alternative informal sources of mental health care in a sample of elderly African-American public-housing residents. Method. Data from an epidemiological survey of six Baltimore public-housing developments for the elderly (weighted N = 818) were analysed to examine the utilization of mental health services by older African-American residents. Logistic regression analyses were used to determine correlates of using formal and informal sources by those needing mental health care. Results. Thirty-five per cent of subjects needed mental health care in the previous 6 months. Residents in need were more likely to use formal (38.5%) than informal sources (18.6%) for care. The strongest correlates of using formal providers were substance use disorder (OR = 15.62), Medicare insurance (OR = 10.31) and psychological distress (OR = 10.27). The strongest correlates of using informal sources were perceiving little or no support from religious/spiritual beliefs (OR = 21.65), cognitive disorder (OR = 19.71) and having a confidant (OR = 15.07). Conclusions. Contrary to elderly African-Americans in general, those in public housing rely more on formal than informal sources for mental health problems. Nevertheless, both sources fail to fill the gap between need and met need. Interventions to increase identification, referral and treatment of elderly public-housing residents in need should target general medical providers and clergy and include assertive outreach by mental health specialists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-530
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological medicine
Volume28
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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