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Open Access Research article

The effect of major depression on participation in preventive health care activities

Scott B Patten12*, Jeanne VA Williams1, Dina H Lavorato1 and Michael Eliasziw1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community Health Sciences. University of Calgary. 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Canada

2 Hotchkiss Brain Institute, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, AB, T2N 4N1, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:87  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-87

Published: 25 March 2009



The objective of this study was to determine whether major depressive episodes (MDE) contribute to a lower rate of participation in three prevention activities: blood pressure checks, mammograms and Pap tests.


The data source for this study was the Canadian National Population Health Survey (NPHS), a longitudinal study that started in 1994 and has subsequently re-interviewed its participants every two years. The NPHS included a short form version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI-SF) to assess past year MDE and also collected data on participation in preventive activities. Initially, we examined whether respondents with MDE in a particular year were less likely to participate in screening during that same year. In order to assess whether MDE negatively altered the pattern of participation, those successfully screened at the baseline interview in 1994 were identified and divided into cohorts depending on their MDE status. Proportional hazard models were used to quantify the effect of MDE on subsequent participation in screening.


No effect of MDE on participation in the three preventive activities was identified either in the cross-sectional or longitudinal analysis. Adjustment for a set of relevant covariates did not alter this result.


Whereas MDE might be expected to reduce the frequency of participation in screening activities, no evidence for this was found in the current analysis. Since people with MDE may contact the health system more frequently, this may offset any tendency of the illness itself to reduce participation in screening.