The Relationship Between Depressive Symptoms and Health Services Utilization in U.S. Chinese Older Adults

Dexia Kong, Mengting Li, Jinjiao Wang, Joan K. Davitt, Xinqi Dong

Publication Date: 05/17/2019

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Depressive symptomatology is a significant predictor of increased health services utilization and health care cost in the general older adult population. However, there is scant information on the relationship between depressive symptoms and health service utilization among U.S. Chinese older adults. The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between depressive symptoms and physician visits, emergency department (ED) visits, and hospitalization.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: Cross-sectional data were derived from the Population Study of Chinese Elderly in Chicago (PINE) collected between July 2011 and June 2013 (N = 3,159). Depressive symptoms were measured by the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the relationship between depressive symptoms and physician visits, ED visits, and hospitalization. RESULTS: U.S. Chinese older adults with depressive symptoms were more likely to have at least one ED visit (odds ratio [OR] = 1.8, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.44-2.28) and hospitalization (OR = 1.9, 95% CI = 1.47-2.33) in the past 2 years than those without depressive symptoms, while adjusting for sociodemographic and health-related covariates. Other significant factors associated with health services utilization in this population included number of people in household, health insurance coverage, and acculturation.

DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS: Depressive symptoms are positively associated with hospitalization and ED visits among U.S. Chinese older adults. Routine screenings of depressive symptoms should be part of the clinical encounter in these care settings so that appropriate treatment or timely mental health service referrals could be provided to this population to ultimately optimize their utilization of health services.