Young Adult Mental Health: a Prospective Examination of Service Utilization, Perceived Unmet Service Needs, Attitudes, and Barriers to Service Use
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Most young adults with mental health symptoms do not receive treatment or access services. It remains important to identify barriers to service utilization to improve access to care. The current study was a prospective analysis examining predictors of (a) mental health service utilization and (b) perceived unmet need for mental health services. Barriers to service utilization were examined by prior depression severity status and college student status. Participants included a subsample of young adults ages 18–23 at time of recruitment who were participating in a longitudinal monthly study who completed both baseline and a 15-month follow-up assessment (N = 622, 80% of larger study). At month 15, 23% of young adults reported receiving mental health services in the past 12 months; 26% of young adults reported a perceived unmet need for mental health services at some point in the past 12 months. There were differences in demographic and mental health predictors of service utilization and perceived unmet need for services. Women, sexual minorities, those with moderate depression, those with more impairment from depression, and perceived past year poor mental health were associated with greater likelihood of receiving services. Similar demographic characteristics were associated with greater likelihood of perceiving unmet need for services. Barriers to service utilization differed by severity of depression symptoms and student status. Young adults have distinct reasons for not accessing mental health services; addressing these to improve accessibility to care remains critical.
KeywordsYoung adults Mental health service utilization Depression Unmet service need
Data collection and manuscript preparation was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (R01AA022087; PI: Lee). Manuscript preparation was also supported in part through NIAAA F32AA025263 (PI: Cadigan). The content of this manuscript is solely the responsibility of the author(s) and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism or the National Institutes of Health.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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