Published Papers - Abstract 381

Schofield M & Khan A. Australian women seeking counselling have higher use of health services. Women's Health Issues, 2008; 18(5): 399-405

Purpose: Despite a high prevalence of psychological distress and poor mental health in the Australian community, use of counseling services is very low. There has been only limited research examining the profile of those who do access counseling services, mainly in terms of demographic and health behaviour variables. To extend our understanding of those who currently access counseling services, this study aimed to examine the broader pattern of health service utilisation by women who consulted counselors, psychologists or social workers in the past year compared with those who did not, among a population-based sample of middle-aged Australian women, and to determine whether health service utilization was independently associated with use of counseling services controlling for other known predictors.Methods: The cross-sectional population-based mail survey data came from the third survey of the mid-aged cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, conducted in 2001. The sample comprised 11,201 women aged 50–55. The main study variable was a question asking whether they had consulted a Counselor/Psychologist/Social Worker in the past year.Findings: Only 6.9% of women had consulted a Counselor/Psychologist/Social Worker in the past year. After controlling for self-reported mental health status, health behaviors and demographic variables in multivariate analysis, consulting a Counselor/Psychologist/Social Worker in the past year was significantly and positively associated with consultations with general practitioners (5 or more consultations, OR 4.14, 95% CI 2.35-7.27, P<0.0001), specialist (3 or more consultations, OR 2.09, 95% CI 1.66-2.63, P<0.0001), and hospital doctor (OR 1.35, 95% CI 1.10-1.66, P=0.004). Use of counseling services was not associated with use of other allied and complementary health services in multivariate analyses. Conclusions: Further research is needed to determine whether the strong independent link between self-reported use of counseling and other medical and health services among middle-aged women is best explained by general practice referral patterns, availability of services, economic factors, or different help-seeking patterns among women.