Community Mental Health Journal

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 303–313 | Cite as

Travel distance as time price and the demand for mental health services

  • Stephen L. White


The ways in which health and mental health services are rationed is an area of growing concern among policy makers and administrators. More attention is being focused on how publicly supported mental health services are utilized and on how health care services in general are used depending upon how they are organized and reimbursed. Price is the marketplace's principal rationing device; the price and the consumption of a good are inversely related. Mental health services, however, tend to have a low money such that money price may not act as a rationing device for those services. This investigation examines the effect of travel distance, a surrogate for time price, from one's home to a community mental health center on the utilization of the center's services. A random sample of 224 clients was studied to determine the effect of their individual travel distances, ages, fees at the center, incomes, employment, gender, and the presence of substitutes on the length and intensity of utilization. Six log-linear regression models were specified and Ordinary Least Squares was used to determine the effect of each independent variable on the utilization of services. In each model travel distance as a measure of time price was found to be a significant factor in utilization. Time price elasticities of demand from this study are compared with elasticities reported in earlier time price studies in health care. The administrative and policy implications of the findings are discussed.


Health Center Mental Health Service Health Care Service Community Mental Health Travel Distance 
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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen L. White
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Florida Health CoalitionMiami
  2. 2.Health Policy and Management, College of Public HealthUniversity of South FloridaTampa

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