Barriers and facilitators related to mental health care use among older veterans in the United States

Rebecca K. Blais, Jack Tsai, Steven M. Southwick, Robert H. Pietrzak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Objective: Psychiatric disorders are more prevalent among older veterans compared with their civilian counterparts, but many veterans with symptoms of psychiatric disorders do not utilize mental health services. This study examined barriers and facilitators related to current mental health care utilization in a nationally representative sample of veterans ages 60 and older (N=2,025). Methods: Using data from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study, the authors evaluated how predisposing, enabling, and need characteristics as well as perceived barriers to care were related to utilization of mental health care among older veterans. Results: A minority of veterans (N=130; weighted prevalence, 6%) reported current mental health care utilization. Among veterans (N=144) who screened positive for a current psychiatric disorder, 42 (weighted prevalence, 25%) were currently utilizing services. In the full sample, current utilization was associated with lifetime posttraumatic stress disorder or depression (odds ratio [OR]=5.88, 95% confidence interval [CI]=3.51-9.84), lifetime drug use disorder (OR=2.87, CI=1.59-5.17), severity of current psychiatric symptoms (OR=1.40, CI=1.19-1.65), general medical difficulties (OR=1.28, CI=1.10-1.50), and lower perceptions of stigma (OR=.80, CI=.68-.93). Non-Hispanic veterans were less likely to utilize care (OR=.42, CI=.25-.69). Among psychiatrically distressed veterans, current utilization was associated with younger age (OR=.89, CI=.81-.97), current suicidal ideation (OR=5.60, CI=1.98-15.84), and fewer negative beliefs about mental health care (OR=.23, CI=.09-.56). Conclusions: Efforts to identify psychiatrically distressed veterans and to reduce stigma and negative beliefs about mental health care may help increase mental health service utilization among older U.S. veterans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)500-506
Number of pages7
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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