OBJECTIVE: Research on schizophrenia has tended to ignore patterns and
costs of mental health service use in late life. The present study examined
the types of mental health services used and their costs for several
age-defined cohorts in a large community mental health system. METHOD: The
data covered all users of the mental health system included in the San
Diego county billing information system in fiscal years 1986 and 1990.
Community mental health service use and codes were modeled as a function of
patient demographic characteristics, diagnosis, and age. The patients were
grouped into the following age categories: 18-29, 30- 44, 45-54, 55-64,
65-74, and > or = 75 years of age. RESULTS: The total costs for
schizophrenia were higher than those for other psychiatric disorders, and
they were also age dependent. In both fiscal years, the costs of
schizophrenia were higher for the youngest and oldest cohorts than for the
patients in the 30-65-year range. CONCLUSIONS: The economic burden of
late-life schizophrenia to the public mental health system is at least as
high as that of schizophrenia in younger adults.