Psychopathology as a Predictor of Medical Service Utilization for Youth in Residential Treatment

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Abstract

Rising health care costs have led to an emphasis on identifying factors that contribute to medical service utilization. Previous research has suggested an association between youth psychopathology and service utilization; however, prospective studies among high-risk populations are needed. The current study examined youth psychopathology as a predictor of subsequent medical service utilization among a large sample (N = 536) of youth entering residential treatment. Youth psychopathology and medical status were assessed at intake, and medical service utilization was tracked across the duration of the residential placement. Results indicated that higher levels of psychopathology predicted greater youth medical service utilization, even after controlling for the presence of a diagnosed medical condition. Internalizing problems was a significant independent predictor of utilization, but externalizing problems was not. These findings highlight the association between mental health and medical service utilization and suggest that effective behavioral health services may be helpful in reducing costly medical service needs.