Social Stability and Unmet Health Care Needs in a Community-Based Sample of Women Who Use Drugs

Ellesse Roselee L. Akré, Daniel J. Marthey, Chisom Ojukwu, Casey Ottenwaelder, Megan Comfort, Jennifer Lorvick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To examine the relationship between social stability and access to healthcare services among a community-based sample of adult female drug users. Methods: We developed a measure of social stability and examined its relationship to health care access. Data came from a cross-sectional sample of female drug users (N = 538) in Oakland, CA who were interviewed between September 2014 and August 2015. We categorized women as having low (1-5), medium (6-10), or high (11-16) social stability based on the tertile of the index sample distribution. We then used ordered logistic regression to examine the relationship between social stability and self-reported access to mental health services and medical care. Results: Compared with women in the low stability group, those with high stability experienced a 58% decline in the odds of needed but unmet mental health services [AOR: 0.42; 95% C.I.: 0.26, 0.69] and a 68% decline in the odds of unmet medical care [AOR: 0.32; 95% C.I.: 0.19, 0.54] after adjusting for confounders. The coefficients we observed reduced in size at higher levels of the stability index suggesting a positive association between social experiences and access to healthcare services. Conclusion: Women who use drugs are at increased risk of adverse health outcomes and often experience high levels of unmet healthcare needs. Our study highlights the importance of addressing social determinants of health and suggests that improving social factors such as housing stability and personal safety may support access to healthcare among female drug users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHealth Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • access to care
  • community health
  • health promotion
  • prevention
  • primary care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy


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