, Volume 47, Issue 9, pp 1475-1487

The delay between symptom onset and seeking professional treatment for anxiety and depressive disorders in a rural Australian sample

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Abstract

Background

Epidemiological research has revealed that the utilisation of professional mental health services is low among rural Australians, despite a similar prevalence of mental illness to urban communities. However, the extent of this unmet need and the length of delay to first seek treatment in rural communities remain unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate the delay among rural Australians in seeking treatment for anxiety and depressive disorders.

Method

A total of 124 participants with an anxiety or depressive disorder according to the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) who were participants of the Australian Rural Mental Health Study (ARMHS) were included in this study. Multivariate methods examined the contribution of clinical (onset age, disorder type and comorbidity), attitudinal/demographic (perceived stigma and current age) and structural (rurality) variables to the delay to first seek help.

Results

The average length of the delay was 18.7 years across disorders (range 0–67). The shortest delays were in depressive disorders (10.41 years) and the longest for social phobia (28.02 years). Multivariate analysis indicated that younger onset age, older current age, diagnosis of panic disorder or depressive disorder, and living in a remote (R) or very remote area (VR) were associated with delays of more than one year.

Conclusion

Delays to first seek treatment for anxiety and depressive disorders appear to be far more prolonged in rural compared to urban Australia. This is particularly the case for Australian residents living in R and VR areas. This is of particular concern due to the significant mental health needs of rural Australians.