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Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2008 Dec;16(12):1010-9. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e31818cd3be.

Older adults' help-seeking attitudes and treatment beliefs concerning mental health problems.

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Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba, Manitoba, Canada.



Older adults with mental health problems are especially unlikely to seek professional mental health services. It is not clear, however, whether their help-seeking attitudes and treatment beliefs contribute to this problem. The objectives of this study were to compare older adults' attitudes and beliefs to younger adults' and to examine the influence of age on these variables after controlling for other demographic variables, prior help-seeking, and mental disorders.


The authors analyzed cross-sectional data from Part 2 of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. This dataset includes 5,692 community-dwelling adults, including 1,341 adults who were 55 years of age and older. Participants responded to three questions assessing attitudes toward seeking professional mental health services and one question examining beliefs about the percentage of people with serious mental health concerns who benefit from professional help. The authors used logistic regression to predict positive versus negative attitudes and beliefs from age, gender, education, and race/ethnicity, as well as prior help seeking and mood and/or anxiety disorder diagnosis.


Overall, more than 80% of participants exhibited positive help-seeking attitudes and more than 70% reported positive treatment beliefs. In contrast to the modest effect of age on beliefs, adults 55-74 years of age were approximately two to three times more likely to report positive help-seeking attitudes than younger adults.


Older adults' positive attitudes and treatment beliefs are unlikely barriers to their use of mental health services. This finding, which is consistent with recent positive views of aging, suggests that enabling resources and need factors are more likely explanations for older adults' low rates of mental health service use.

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