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Open Access Research article

Professional health care use and subjective unmet need for social or emotional problems: a cross-sectional survey of the married and divorced population of Flanders

Elien Colman*, Sara Symoens and Piet Bracke

Author Affiliations

Department of Sociology, Hedera (Health and demographic research), Ghent University, Korte Meer 5, Ghent, 9000, Belgium

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BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:420  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-420

Published: 22 November 2012

Abstract

Background

The high mental health care consumption rates of divorced singles may constitute a heavy burden on the public health care system. This raises the question of whether their higher health care use stems from a greater need, or whether there are other factors contributing to these high consumption rates. We examine both health care use and subjective unmet need (perceiving a need for care without seeking it) because of social or emotional problems of the divorced singles, the repartnered divorcees, and the married. Moreover, we investigate how health care use and subjective unmet need relate to each other.

Methods

We conduct several gender specific logistic regressions employing data from the Divorce in Flanders Survey (N men = 2884; N women = 3317).

Results

Results show that the divorced singles have more contact with professional health care providers (general practitioners, psychiatrists, and psychologists) because of social or emotional problems, and more often perceive unmet needs. The higher health care use rates and greater subjective unmet needs can largely be attributed to higher levels of depressive symptoms. Surprisingly, we find that non-frequent health care users more often perceive a subjective unmet need than frequent health care users and those who have not contacted any health care provider.

Conclusion

The single divorced consult health care providers more often because of social or emotional problems and they also perceive unmet needs more often.

Keywords:
Divorce; Health care use; Subjective unmet need; Perceived unmet need; Mental health