Emergency department visits by mental health patients on the rise in North Carolina

A new study by UNC researchers finds that patients with mental health disorders are visiting North Carolina hospital emergency departments in growing numbers.

Emergency department visits by mental health patients on the rise in North Carolina
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Judith E. Tintinalli, MD, MS

Media contact: Stephanie Mahin, 919-966-2860, smahin@unch.unc.edu

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A new study by University of North Carolina School of Medicine researchers finds that visits to hospital emergency departments in North Carolina by patients with mental health disorders increased significantly from 2008 to 2010.

“Mental health disorders are a serious public health problem, and patients with mental health disorders are visiting EDs in North Carolina in growing numbers,” said Judith E. Tintinalli, MD, MS, a professor in UNC's Department of Emergency Medicine.

The study, based on an analysis of 3 years of visits to North Carolina hospital emergency departments, found that nearly 1 in 10 visits were made by patients with underlying mental health disorders. These results are reported in the June 14, 2013 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study found that across the state, ED visits by patients with mental health disorders increased by 18 percent from 2008 to 2010, nearly four times the increase in the total number of ED visits in the state, and most visits (62 percent) were by those with underlying stress, anxiety, or depression. Almost one-third of ED visits by those with underlying mental health disorders resulted in hospital admission, more than twice as many as those without underlying mental health disorders. Those  65 years and older had the highest rates of stress/anxiety/depression, schizophrenia, and dementia compared to all other age groups, and one of every two elders with an underlying mental health disorder was admitted to the hospital.

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