Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Family Practice and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Prostate specific antigen testing is associated with men’s psychological and physical health and their healthcare utilisation in a nationally representative sample: a cross-sectional study

Evelyn M Flahavan1*, Frances J Drummond2, Kathleen Bennett1, Thomas I Barron1 and Linda Sharp2

  • * Corresponding author: Evelyn M Flahavan

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Trinity College, University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

2 National Cancer Registry Ireland, Building 6800, Airport Business Park, Cork, Ireland

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Family Practice 2014, 15:121  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-121

Published: 17 June 2014



Prostate cancer incidence has risen considerably in recent years, primarily due to Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) testing in primary care. The objective of this study was to investigate associations between PSA testing and the psychological and physical health, and healthcare utilisation of men in a population where PSA testing is widespread.


A cross-sectional study was carried out in a population-representative sample of men ≥50 years enrolled in The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA). TILDA participants underwent structured interviews, health assessments and completed standardised questionnaires. Men were classified as ever/never having received a PSA test. Multivariate logistic regression (Odds Ratios (OR) and 95% Confidence Intervals (CI) was used to determine associations between PSA testing, and men’s psychological and physical health and healthcare utilisation.


This analysis included 3,628 men, 68.2% of whom ever had a PSA test. In adjusted analysis, men with sub-threshold depression were significantly less likely to have had a PSA test, (OR = 0.79, 95% CI 0.64-0.97). Likelihood of having a PSA test was inversely associated with anxiety, but this was not significant (OR = 0.79, 95% CI 0.57-1.09). Frailty (OR = 0.61, 95% CI 0.31-1.05) and eligibility for free primary care (OR = 0.63, 95% CI 0.52-0.77) were also inversely associated with PSA testing. Positive associations were observed between PSA testing and more chronic illnesses (OR = 1.11, 95% CI 1.05-1.19), more primary care visits (OR = 1.03, 95% CI 1.01-1.05) and preventative health practices, including cholesterol testing and influenza vaccination (OR = 1.35, 95% CI 1.13-1.60).


Men’s psychological and physical health and their healthcare utilisation are associated with PSA testing in primary care. The association between poorer psychological health, in particular sub-threshold depression, and reduced likelihood of PSA testing in primary care requires further investigation. These findings may have wider implications for other cancer screening.