Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health visits in primary care: an interrupted time series analysis from nine INTRePID countries


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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic impacted mental health disorders, affecting both individuals with pre-existing conditions and those with no prior history. However, there is limited evidence regarding the pandemic's impact on mental health visits to primary care physicians. The International Consortium of Primary Care Big Data Researchers (INTRePID) explored primary care visit trends related to mental health conditions in Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Norway, Peru, Singapore, Sweden, and the USA. Methods: We conducted an interrupted time series analysis in nine countries to examine changes in rates of monthly mental health visits to primary care settings from January 1st, 2018, to December 31st, 2021. Sub-group analysis considered service type (in-person/virtual) and six categories of mental health conditions (anxiety/depression, bipolar/schizophrenia/other psychotic disorders, sleep disorders, dementia, ADHD/eating disorders, and substance use disorder). Findings: Mental health visit rates increased after the onset of the pandemic in most countries. In Argentina, Canada, China, Norway, Peru, and Singapore, this increase was immediate ranged from an incidence rate ratio of 1·118 [95% CI 1.053–1.187] to 2.240 [95% CI 2.057–2.439] when comparing the first month of pandemic with the pre-pandemic trend. Increases in the following months varied across countries. Anxiety/depression was the leading reason for mental health visits in most countries. Virtual visits were reported in Australia, Canada, Norway, Peru, Sweden, and the USA, accounting for up to 40% of the total mental health visits. Interpretation: Findings suggest an overall increase in mental health visits, driven largely by anxiety/depression. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the studied countries adopted virtual care in particular for mental health visits. Primary care plays a crucial role in addressing mental ill-health in times of crisis. Funding: Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant #173094 and the Rathlyn Foundation Primary Care EMR Research and Discovery Fund.

Idioma originalInglés estadounidense
EstadoIndizado - abr. 2024

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