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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Assessing gaps and variations in depression care and the impact of physician incentives Puyat, Joseph H.


Depression is increasingly becoming the leading cause of disability worldwide. While effective treatments like psychological or antidepressant therapies are available, concerns remain about under treatment and disparities in care as these can adversely affect mental health outcomes. Through a series of studies, this thesis estimated the magnitude of the gap and variations in depression care and the impact physician incentives had on treatment gaps. To perform all population-based analyses, this thesis used linked health administrative data from the Canadian province of British Columbia. An algorithm for identifying cohorts was developed to ensure that observation periods for detecting diagnosis and assessing use of mental health care were identical for all individuals. Administrative data were used to derive indicators that measure receipt of counseling/psychotherapy, receipt of antidepressants, adherence to antidepressant therapy, and physician continuity of care. Analytical approaches used in the study include calculating proportions to estimate treatment gaps, building generalized and mixed effects regression models to examine treatment variations and running interrupted time series analysis to investigate policy impacts. Results of the analyses suggest that four out of ten individuals with depression did not receive any depression care from the formal health system. Among the treated, only one in two received minimally adequate care, mostly through antidepressants. Minimally adequate treatment varied by sex, age, overall health status, place of residence, physician practice, and presence of specific comorbid physical conditions. Study results also indicate that physician incentives affected depression care patterns, although the overall impact was modest. Specifically, the downward trend in counseling/psychotherapy and the upward trend in antidepressant therapy initiation were disrupted. Likewise, the percentage of individuals who received minimally adequate counseling/psychotherapy increased gradually over time while the percentage of those who received minimally adequate antidepressant therapy decreased. Some gains were also achieved in measures of physician continuity of care. Overall, study results show that wide gaps in depression care persist despite recent efforts to improve mental health care. Expanding public coverage for psychological therapies and exploring reforms that require fundamental changes in mental health service delivery are needed to enhance treatment options and accessibility.

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