Report: Mental health outcomes for Michigan residents worsen despite more access to health care, insurance

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Health economics researchers at Grand Valley State University found more Michiganders have access to health care and health insurance, but mental health outcomes for residents have worsened.

The research findings were revealed on Jan. 8 during the 12th annual health check report, which analyzed health risks and trends for Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan counties and compared data to statewide and national figures.

The report was part of the virtual West Michigan Health Care Economic Forecast, sponsored by Grand Valley’s Office of the Vice Provost for Health.

The report was written by Erkmen Aslim and Daniel Montanera, assistant professors of economics in GVSU’s Seidman College of Business.

“We discovered that while people have better access to health insurance for primary care and routine checkups, mental health outcomes were worse,” Aslim said.

Residents in West Michigan and the Detroit region were asked how many days in a month their mental health was poor. Researchers found a slight uptick among West Michigan residents — 14.1% of the population in 2018 — reporting poor mental health days, compared to 13.4% of Detroit residents.

The percentage of populations without health insurance in both regions dropped in 2018 to about 6%. Nearly 90% of the West Michigan population reported having access to routine care, compared to about 85% of the Detroit population.

Telehealth visits saw a sharp increase in the Detroit region in 2019 compared to 2018. Montanera suggested this low-cost health care service was as beneficial in suburban and urban areas as in rural areas.

Researchers also studied the impact of COVID-19 on health care and social spending. During the spring quarantine period, they found a 60% decline in health care and social spending in Michigan.

Aslim said while there was an increase in health care/social spending after the passage of the federal stimulus package in mid-April, the decline could be troublesome if people continue to defer medical procedures until a time they perceive hospitals as safe.

Other health risk factors using 2018 as the latest reporting year

Deaths from suicide in both regions rose in 2018 from 2017 to about 14 deaths per 100,000 individuals.

West Michigan saw a rise in the number of adult cigarette smokers to 18.5% of the population, while the number of smokers in the Detroit region dropped slightly to 19.1% of the population.

About two-thirds of residents in both regions were obese or overweight; researchers noted this compares to national statistics.

The entire report is available online and is supported with grants from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network and Priority Health.

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