Prevalence, Severity, and Unmet Need for Treatment of Mental Disorders in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys

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Abstract

Context

Little is known about the extent or severity of untreated mental disorders, especially in less-developed countries.

Objective

To estimate prevalence, severity, and treatment of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) mental disorders in 14 countries (6 less developed, 8 developed) in the World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Face-to-face household surveys of 60 463 community adults conducted from 2001–2003 in 14 countries in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

Main Outcome Measures

The DSM-IV disorders, severity, and treatment were assessed with the WMH version of the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview (WMH-CIDI), a fully structured, lay-administered psychiatric diagnostic interview.

Results

The prevalence of having any WMH-CIDI/DSM-IV disorder in the prior year varied widely, from 4.3% in Shanghai to 26.4% in the United States, with an interquartile range (IQR) of 9.1%–16.9%. Between 33.1% (Colombia) and 80.9% (Nigeria) of 12-month cases were mild (IQR, 40.2%–53.3%). Serious disorders were associated with substantial role disability. Although disorder severity was correlated with probability of treatment in almost all countries, 35.5% to 50.3% of serious cases in developed countries and 76.3% to 85.4% in less-developed countries received no treatment in the 12 months before the interview. Due to the high prevalence of mild and subthreshold cases, the number of those who received treatment far exceeds the number of untreated serious cases in every country.

Conclusions

Reallocation of treatment resources could substantially decrease the problem of unmet need for treatment of mental disorders among serious cases. Structural barriers exist to this reallocation. Careful consideration needs to be given to the value of treating some mild cases, especially those at risk for progressing to more serious disorders.

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