Distress symptoms and high-risk behaviors among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were examined as predictors of treatment utilization.
Veterans (N=618) completed self-report measures upon treatment enrollment (2005–2008). Two-year utilization data were obtained for five settings: primary care, mental health within primary care, outpatient mental health, emergency room, and inpatient psychiatric.
Pain was associated with primary care use; depression, panic, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol misuse, and aggression were associated with use of other settings. After adjustment for comorbidity, veterans with high levels of PTSD and depression symptoms had more treatment visits across several settings than veterans with lower levels. Specialty mental health utilization was low among those reporting elevated psychiatric symptoms (for example, a mean of 8.8 outpatient visits over two years).
Symptoms and high-risk behaviors were differentially associated with treatment settings; PTSD and depression predicted greater treatment use. Veterans may have overutilized emergency care while underutilizing specialty mental health services. (Psychiatric Services 63:942–944, 2012; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201100349)