BMC Public Health. 2022 Dec 1;22(1):2242. doi: 10.1186/s12889-022-14633-4.
BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted access to healthcare services in Canada. Research prior to the pandemic has found that depression and anxiety symptoms were associated with increased unmet healthcare needs. The primary objective of this study was to examine if mental health was associated with perceived access to healthcare during the pandemic METHODS: A cross-sectional study was conducted using data from 23,972 participants (aged 50-96) in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging COVID-19 Exit Survey (Sept-Dec 2020). We used logistic regression to estimate how the presence of depression and anxiety symptoms, defined using scores of ≥10 on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale and ≥10 on the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale, were associated with the odds of reporting: 1) challenges accessing healthcare, 2) not going to a hospital or seeing a doctor when needed, 3) experiencing barriers to COVID-19 testing. Models were adjusted for sex, age, region, urban/rural residence, racial background, immigrant status, income, marital status, work status, chronic conditions, and pre-pandemic unmet needs.
RESULTS: The presence of depressive (aOR=1.96; 95% CI=1.82, 2.11) and anxiety symptoms (aOR=2.33; 95% CI=2.04, 2.66) compared to the absence of these symptoms were independently associated with higher odds of challenges accessing healthcare. A statistically significant interaction with sex suggested stronger associations in females with anxiety. Symptoms of depression (aOR=2.88; 95% CI=2.58, 3.21) and anxiety (aOR=3.05; 95% CI=2.58, 3.60) were also associated with increased odds of not going to a hospital or seeing a doctor when needed. Lastly, depressive (aOR=1.99; 95% CI=1.71, 2.31) and anxiety symptoms (aOR=2.01; 95% CI=1.58, 2.56) were associated with higher odds of reporting barriers to COVID-19 testing. There was no significantly significant interaction with sex for the latter two outcomes.
CONCLUSION: The presence of depression and anxiety symptoms were strongly associated with perceived unmet healthcare needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interventions to improve healthcare access for adults with depression and anxiety during the pandemic may be necessary.