Comparing Severity of Alcohol Problems and Depression using Two Alberta Population Surveys

  • Author / Creator
    Jahrig, Jesse
  • A variety of approaches and models have been used to estimate treatment service needs of people experiencing substance misuse and mental health problems. Typically, estimates are derived from population data assessing the presence or absence of substance misuse or mental health diagnoses. However, this dichotomous approach is problematic because it assumes homogeneity in “cases,” despite robust evidence that substance misuse and mental health problems vary in relation to problem severity. Thus, new approaches are needed to incorporate problem severity into ordinal estimates of population prevalence and service system planning. This study addressed this issue by comparing prevalence and treatment utilization for alcohol problems and depression in the general Alberta adult population using different measurement approaches employed in two 2012 surveys: the Alberta Addiction Survey (AAS; N = 6,000) and the Alberta sample of Canadian Community Health Survey—Mental Health component (CCHS—MH; N = 2,785). Canadian data from the CCHS were also analyzed to supplement CCHS Alberta results that exhibited high sampling variability. The research objectives of this study were to: (1) compare estimates of the size of sub-populations that would benefit from accessing health services, (2) describe whether correlates of alcohol and depression problems (e.g., age, sex, education, marriage, distress) differed across measurement approaches, and (3) assess whether increased problem severity is associated with increased receipt of help. Results revealed that depression was more prevalent than alcohol problems across both surveys and measurement tools. The majority of people with alcohol problems reported not receiving help, even among those with severe alcohol problems. For people with depression, help was more often received than people with alcohol problems; however, there were still substantial proportions of people with depression with unmet needs. Problem severity analysis demonstrated that assessment of different levels of problem severity enhanced understanding of alcohol misuse and depression. That is, in comparison to those with low-severity, people with high-severity alcohol and depression problems had higher levels of distress, received more help, and, for people with alcohol problems, were less likely to be married. A more detailed understanding of gaps in service is useful for service providers; a dichotomous approach falls short in providing the depth of information required to determine the types of services needed by people with ranging problem severity. Findings help build the case for the utility of providing more differentiated population information for planning service system responses.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
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