Individual and ecological determinants of access to mental health services among youth: an analysis of survey and census data

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University of New Brunswick


Mental disorders disproportionately affect adolescents and young adults, especially when one considers that the onset of most lifetime mental disorders occurs before the age of 24 (De Girolamo, Dagani, Purcell, Cocchi, & McGorry, 2012; Kessler et al., 2007). In particular, recent findings from the Canadian Community Health Survey (2012) revealed that depressive (8.2%) and substance use disorders (11.9%) were the most prevalent disorders among youth aged 15 to 24 (Pearson, Janz, & Ali, 2013). Despite high prevalence of mental disorders and a wide range of health and social problems associated with these conditions, service utilization among youth is low, with only 20 to 25% of youth who need services accessing them (Cheung & Dewa, 2007; Lyon, Ludwig, Stoep, Gudmundsen, & McCauley, 2013). In the current study, an analysis of survey (CCHS, 2012; CCHS, 2011-2012) and census (PCCF+) data was conducted to examine individual and ecological determinants to access mental health services among youth. The results indicate that individual determinants, such as having a high level of education and income, perceiving a need for care, and having a social support system are associated with greater access to services among youth, and ecological determinants, such as living in urban communities enable access to services among youth. The results from this study provide information on estimates of access to mental health care following individual and ecological variables. Implications and future directions are discussed.