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China's Profile of Mental Illness Poorly Researched

Developing countries need more information before they scale up mental health services

FRIDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- The estimates of prevalence, disability and treatment rates used in the national analysis of the mental illness disease burden in China do not match the reality of the situation at provincial level, according to a study published in the June 13 issue of The Lancet.

Michael R. Phillips, M.D., of Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues conducted a study in 96 urban and 267 rural sites in four provinces comprising a sampling frame of 113 million people aged 18 years and above, representing 12 percent of China's adult population. Of 63,004 people who were screened for mental illness, 16,577 were interviewed in-depth by a psychiatrist.

There was a 17.5 percent prevalence of any mental disorder, and the prevalence of mood, anxiety, substance abuse and psychotic disorders was 6.1 percent, 5.6 percent, 5.9 percent and 1.0 percent, respectively, the researchers found. Alcohol dependence and depression were more common among rural residents than their urban counterparts, and only 8 percent of people with a diagnosable mental illness had ever sought professional help, the investigators discovered.

"Substantial differences between our results and prevalence, disability, and treatment rate estimates used in the analysis of global burden of disease for China draw attention to the need for low-income and middle-income countries to do detailed, country-specific situation analyses before they scale up mental health services," the authors conclude.

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