About 50 percent of women ages 18 to 64 said they needed mental health services in the past two years, but only half of them were able to make an appointment, according to a recent research.
The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) study included a sample of 5,145 women and 1,225 men between the ages of 18 and 64. It was conducted online between May 10 and June 7.
The report found that more women need mental health services than men. While half of the women surveyed said they needed mental health support, only 35% of men said they needed it. However, of those who needed mental health services in the past two years, women and men reported seeking care at similar rates: 60% and 56%, respectively.
There is also a disparity when it comes to age, KFF found. Nearly two-thirds, or 64 percent, of women ages 18 to 25 reported needing mental health services in the past two years. In comparison, only 35% of women between the ages of 50 and 64 said this. Additionally, 55% of low-income women and 58% of women with Medicaid coverage said they needed mental health support, compared to 47% of higher-income women and 47% with private insurance.
While half of the 50% of women who reported needing mental health care in the past two years were able to secure an appointment, another 10% had tried to get care and failed. Another 40% have not tried.
“This suggests that the other half of women who report needing care may have unmet mental health needs,” KFF said.
These findings come at a time when the United States is facing a severe workforce shortage of behavioral health providers. Half of the women who tried to make an appointment were able to get one within a month, but more than a third had to wait longer. Of those who were unable to secure an appointment, many cited limited provider availability and cost as key reasons.
Even those who were able to land a date had challenges. About two in 10 privately insured women who received an appointment reported that their provider did not take their insurance.
These challenges to access to care have important implications for women.
“Unmet mental health needs known to affect the overall well-being and productivity of individuals, families and society, and studies consistently show that women are disproportionately affected by these unmet needs,” KFF said.
Increased access to telehealth does provide some relief, however. About 60% of women had a telehealth visit in the past two years, and 17% of those women said the main purpose of their last visit was for mental health. Additionally, 69% of women who had a mental health telehealth visit said the quality was equal to an in-person visit.
“Telehealth and telemedicine services are recognized as an emerging strategy for increasing access to care and addressing health needs, including mental health care,” the report said. “We found that most women who received mental health services via telehealth said the quality of care they received was the same as in-person care. Telehealth there is and will likely continue to play a role in addressing issues related to women’s access to mental health.
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