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Mental Health Treatment Dropout and Its Correlates in a General Population Sample

Wang, JianLi PhD

doi: 10.1097/01.mlr.0000244506.86885.a5
Original Article

Background: Dropping out of mental health treatment prematurely may affect treatment outcome. However, we have limited knowledge about the epidemiology of mental health treatment dropout. The objectives of this analysis were to estimate the rates of dropout in individuals who had received mental health treatment provided by different health professionals and to identify factors associated with mental health treatment dropout.

Methods: Data from the Canadian Community Health Survey–Mental Health–Well-being were used. Participants who had used mental health services in the past 12 months were included in the analysis (n = 3556). The percentages dropping out of mental health treatment provided by various health professionals were estimated. Logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with treatment dropout.

Results: The overall rate of dropout from mental health treatment in the past 12 months was 22.3%. Participants who had used services provided by family doctors/general practitioners had the lowest rate of dropout (11.8%). The dropout rate was 22.7% in those who were treated by psychiatrists and was 21.9% in participants who had seen psychologists. Young (15–25 years), nonwhite and individuals who reported having had a mood disorder or having had substance dependence were more likely to terminate treatment prematurely.

Conclusions: In Canada, a large percentage of individuals who use mental health services prematurely terminate their treatment. Clinical factors may play important roles in treatment dropout. Patients with substance dependence and those with mood disorders have a high risk of treatment dropout.

From the Departments of Psychiatry and Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Dr. Wang is supported by a New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Reprints: JianLi Wang, PhD, Room 127, Heritage Medical Research Building, Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, 3330 Hospital Dr. NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2N 4N1. E-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.