Association of depressive symptoms with health care utilization in older adults: Longitudinal evidence from the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe

Kaisla Komulainen, Kia Gluschkoff, Regina Garcia Velázquez, Jaakko Airaksinen, Alejandro Szmulewicz, Markus Jokela

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Objectives Many older adults with depression do not receive adequate treatment. Differences in treatment utilization may reflect the heterogeneous nature of depression, encompassing multiple distinct symptoms. We assessed whether depressive symptoms are differentially associated with subsequent health care utilization with respect to three outcomes as follows: (1) contact with a medical doctor (MD), (2) depression-specific treatment, and (3) inpatient psychiatric admission.

Methods/Design Longitudinal analyses were based on data from three follow-up cycles conducted between 2004 and 2013 among 53,139 participants from the Survey of Health, Aging, and Retirement in Europe. Depressive symptoms were self-reported at baseline of each follow-up cycle using the 12-item EURO-D scale. Health care utilization was self-reported at the end of each follow-up cycle.

Results After adjustment for sex, age, country of interview, follow-up time, educational attainment, presence of a partner in household, body-mass index, the number of chronic diseases, disability, average/prior frequency of contact with an MD, and all other depressive symptoms, people with more frequent contact with an MD had most often reported sleep problems (IRR = 1.10) and fatigue (IRR = 1.10), followed by sad/depressed mood, tearfulness, concentration problems, guilt, irritability, and changes in appetite. Those treated for depression had most often reported sad/depressed mood (OR = 2.18) and suicidal ideation (OR = 1.72), but also sleep problems, changes in appetite, fatigue, concentration problems, hopelessness, and irritability. Sad/depressed mood (OR = 2.87) was also associated with psychiatric inpatient admission. Similarly to other outcomes, appetite change, fatigue, and sleep problems were associated with inpatient admission.

Conclusions Specific symptoms of depression may determine utilization of different types of health care among elderly.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)521-529
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 515 Psychology
  • 3124 Neurology and psychiatry

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