Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Public Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Divorce, divorce rates, and professional care seeking for mental health problems in Europe: a cross-sectional population-based study

Piet F Bracke*, Elien Colman, Sara AA Symoens and Lore Van Praag

Author Affiliations

Department of Sociology, Ghent University, Belgium, Korte Meer 5, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2010, 10:224  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-224

Published: 29 April 2010

Abstract

Background

Little is known about differences in professional care seeking based on marital status. The few existing studies show more professional care seeking among the divorced or separated compared to the married or cohabiting. The aim of this study is to determine whether, in a sample of the European general population, the divorced or separated seek more professional mental health care than the married or cohabiting, regardless of self-reported mental health problems. Furthermore, we examine whether two country-level features--the supply of mental health professionals and the country-level divorce rates--contribute to marital status differences in professional care-seeking behavior.

Methods

We use data from the Eurobarometer 248 on mental well-being that was collected via telephone interviews. The unweighted sample includes 27,146 respondents (11,728 men and 15,418 women). Poisson hierarchical regression models were estimated to examine whether the divorced or separated have higher professional health care use for emotional or psychological problems, after controlling for mental and somatic health, sociodemographic characteristics, support from family and friends, and degree of urbanization. We also considered country-level divorce rates and indicators of the supply of mental health professionals, and applied design and population weights.

Results

We find that professional care seeking is strongly need based. Moreover, the divorced or separated consult health professionals for mental health problems more often than people who are married or who cohabit do. In addition, we find that the gap between the divorced or separated and the married or cohabiting is highest in countries with low divorce rates.

Conclusions

The higher rates of professional care seeking for mental health problems among the divorced or separated only partially correlates with their more severe mental health problems. In countries where marital dissolution is more common, the marital status gap in professional care seeking is narrower, partially because professional care seeking is more common among the married or cohabiting.