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Public Health Rep. 2004 Jul-Aug; 119(4): 409–417.
PMCID: PMC1497647
Mental health disorders among individuals with mental retardation: challenges to accurate prevalence estimates.
Bonnie D. Kerker, Pamela L. Owens, Edward Zigler, and Sarah M. Horwitz
Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.
Bonnie D. Kerker: bkerker/at/health.nyc.gov
Abstract
OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this literature review were to assess current challenges to estimating the prevalence of mental health disorders among individuals with mental retardation (MR) and to develop recommendations to improve such estimates for this population. METHODS: The authors identified 200 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, government documents, or reports from national and international organizations on the mental health status of people with MR. Based on the study's inclusion criteria, 52 articles were included in the review. RESULTS: Available data reveal inconsistent estimates of the prevalence of mental health disorders among those with MR, but suggest that some mental health conditions are more common among these individuals than in the general population. Two main challenges to identifying accurate prevalence estimates were found: (1) health care providers have difficulty diagnosing mental health conditions among individuals with MR; and (2) methodological limitations of previous research inhibit confidence in study results. CONCLUSIONS: Accurate prevalence estimates are necessary to ensure the availability of appropriate treatment services. To this end, health care providers should receive more training regarding the mental health treatment of individuals with MR. Further, government officials should discuss mechanisms of collecting nationally representative data, and the research community should utilize consistent methods with representative samples when studying mental health conditions in this population.
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