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1.  Dissociation in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Evidence from the World Mental Health Surveys 
Biological psychiatry  2012;73(4):302-312.
Background
Although the proposal for a dissociative subtype of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in DSM-5 is supported by considerable clinical and neurobiological evidence, this evidence comes mostly from referred samples in Western countries. Cross-national population epidemiologic surveys were analyzed to evaluate generalizability of the subtype in more diverse samples.
Methods
Interviews were administered to 25,018 respondents in 16 countries in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. The Composite International Diagnostic Interview was used to assess 12-month DSM-IV PTSD and other common DSM-IV disorders. Items from a checklist of past-month nonspecific psychological distress were used to assess dissociative symptoms of depersonalization and derealization. Differences between PTSD with and without these dissociative symptoms were examined across a variety of domains, including index trauma characteristics, prior trauma history, childhood adversity, sociodemographic characteristics, psychiatric comorbidity, functional impairment, and treatment seeking.
Results
Dissociative symptoms were present in 14.4% of respondents with 12-month DSM-IV/Composite International Diagnostic Interview PTSD and did not differ between high and low/middle income countries. Symptoms of dissociation in PTSD were associated with high counts of re-experiencing symptoms and net of these symptom counts with male sex, childhood onset of PTSD, high exposure to prior (to the onset of PTSD) traumatic events and childhood adversities, prior histories of separation anxiety disorder and specific phobia, severe role impairment, and suicidality.
Conclusion
These results provide community epidemiologic data documenting the value of the dissociative subtype in distinguishing a meaningful proportion of severe and impairing cases of PTSD that have distinct correlates across a diverse set of countries.
doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.08.022
PMCID: PMC3589990  PMID: 23059051
Dissociation; dissociative subtype; DSM-5; epidemiology; nosology; posttraumatic stress disorder; World Mental Health Surveys
2.  Days out-of-role due to common physical and mental health problems: Results from the São Paulo Megacity Mental Health Survey, Brazil 
Clinics  2013;68(11):1392-1399.
OBJECTIVES:
To investigate the relative importance of common physical and mental disorders with regard to the number of days out-of-role (DOR; number of days for which a person is completely unable to work or carry out normal activities because of health problems) in a population-based sample of adults in the São Paulo Metropolitan Area, Brazil.
METHODS:
The São Paulo Megacity Mental Health Survey was administered during face-to-face interviews with 2,942 adult household residents. The presence of 8 chronic physical disorders and 3 classes of mental disorders (mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders) was assessed for the previous year along with the number of days in the previous month for which each respondent was completely unable to work or carry out normal daily activities due to health problems. Using multiple regression analysis, we examined the associations of the disorders and their comorbidities with the number of days out-of-role while controlling for socio-demographic variables. Both individual-level and population-level associations were assessed.
RESULTS:
A total of 13.1% of the respondents reported 1 or more days out-of-role in the previous month, with an annual median of 41.4 days out-of-role. The disorders considered in this study accounted for 71.7% of all DOR; the disorders that caused the greatest number of DOR at the individual-level were digestive (22.6), mood (19.9), substance use (15.0), chronic pain (16.5), and anxiety (14.0) disorders. The disorders associated with the highest population-attributable DOR were chronic pain (35.2%), mood (16.5%), and anxiety (15.0%) disorders.
CONCLUSIONS:
Because pain, anxiety, and mood disorders have high effects at both the individual and societal levels, targeted interventions to reduce the impairments associated with these disorders have the highest potential to reduce the societal burdens of chronic illness in the São Paulo Metropolitan Area.
doi:10.6061/clinics/2013(11)02
PMCID: PMC3812560  PMID: 24270949
Mental Disorders; Chronic Disease; Disability; Prevalence; Burden of Illness
3.  Childhood Adversity and Adult Onset of Hypertension and Heart Disease in São Paulo, Brazil 
Using data from the São Paulo Megacity Mental Health Survey and logistic regression models, we studied how childhood neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and family violence were related to adult hypertension and heart disease. After adjustment for sociodemographic factors, child physical abuse was associated with hypertension and heart disease, whereas family violence was associated with hypertension. Efforts to curb child physical abuse could potentially reduce subsequent hypertension and heart disease.
doi:10.5888/pcd10.130193
PMCID: PMC3854875  PMID: 24309093
4.  Prevalence and Correlates of Bipolar Spectrum Disorder in the World Mental Health Survey Initiative 
Archives of general psychiatry  2011;68(3):241-251.
Context
There is limited information on the prevalence and correlates of bipolar spectrum disorder in international population-based studies using common methodology.
Objective
To describe the prevalence, impact, patterns of comorbidity, and patterns of service utilization for bipolar spectrum disorder in the WHO World Mental Health survey (WMH) initiative.
Design
Cross-sectional face-to-face household surveys
Participants
61,392 community adults in 11 countries in the Americas, Europe, and Asia
Main Outcome Measure
DSM-IV disorders, severity, and treatment assessed with the World Mental Health version of the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview (WMH CIDI 3.0), a fully-structured lay-administered psychiatric diagnostic interview.
Results
The aggregate lifetime prevalence of BP-I disorder was 0.6%, BP-II was 0.4%, subthreshold BP was 1.4%, and Bipolar Spectrum (BPS) was 2.4%. Twelve-month prevalence of BP-I disorder was 0.4%, BP-II was 0.3%, subthreshold BP was 0.8%, and BPS was 1.5%. Severity of both manic and depressive symptoms, and suicidal behavior increased monotonically from subthreshold BP to BP-I. By contrast, role impairment was similar across bipolar subtypes. Symptom severity was greater for depressive than manic episodes, with approximately 75% of respondents with depression and 50% of respondents with mania reporting severe role impairment. Three-quarters of those with BPS met criteria for at least one other disorder, with anxiety disorders, particularly panic attacks, being the most common comorbid condition. Less than half of those with lifetime BPS received mental health treatment, particularly in low-income countries where only 25% reported contact with the mental health system.
Conclusions
Despite cross-site variation in the prevalence rates of bipolar spectrum disorder, the severity, impact, and patterns of comorbidity were remarkably similar internationally. The uniform increases in clinical correlates, suicidal behavior and comorbidity across each diagnostic category provide evidence for the validity of the concept of a bipolar spectrum. BPS treatment needs are often unmet, particularly in low-income countries.
doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.12
PMCID: PMC3486639  PMID: 21383262
5.  Sociodemographic Correlates of Transitions from Alcohol Use to Disorders and Remission in the São Paulo Megacity Mental Health Survey, Brazil 
Aims: To evaluate sociodemographic correlates associated with transitions from alcohol use to disorders and remission in a Brazilian population. Methods: Data are from a probabilistic, multi-stage clustered sample of adult household residents in the São Paulo Metropolitan Area. Alcohol use, regular use (at least 12 drinks/year), DSM-IV abuse and dependence and remission from alcohol use disorders (AUDs) were assessed with the World Mental Health version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Age of onset (AOO) distributions of the cumulative lifetime probability of each alcohol use stage were prepared with data obtained from 5037 subjects. Correlates of transitions were obtained from a subsample of 2942 respondents, whose time-dependent sociodemographic data were available. Results: Lifetime prevalences were 85.8% for alcohol use, 56.2% for regular use, 10.6% for abuse and 3.6% for dependence; 73.4 and 58.8% of respondents with lifetime abuse and dependence, respectively, had remitted. The number of sociodemographic correlates decreased from alcohol use to disorders. All transitions across alcohol use stages up to abuse were consistently associated with male gender, younger cohorts and lower education. Importantly, low education was a correlate for developing AUD and not remitting from dependence. Early AOO of first alcohol use was associated with the transition of regular use to abuse. Conclusion: The present study demonstrates that specific correlates differently contribute throughout alcohol use trajectory in a Brazilian population. It also reinforces the need of preventive programs focused on early initiation of alcohol use and high-risk individuals, in order to minimize the progression to dependence and improve remission from AUD.
doi:10.1093/alcalc/agr007
PMCID: PMC3080240  PMID: 21414952
6.  Gender differences in drinking patterns and alcohol-related problems in a community sample in São Paulo, Brazil 
Clinics  2012;67(3):205-212.
OBJECTIVE:
To investigate drinking patterns and gender differences in alcohol-related problems in a Brazilian population, with an emphasis on the frequency of heavy drinking.
METHODS:
A cross-sectional study was conducted with a probability adult household sample (n = 1,464) in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. Alcohol intake and ICD-10 psychopathology diagnoses were assessed with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview 1.1. The analyses focused on the prevalence and determinants of 12-month non-heavy drinking, heavy episodic drinking (4-5 drinks per occasion), and heavy and frequent drinking (heavy drinking at least 3 times/week), as well as associated alcohol-related problems according to drinking patterns and gender.
RESULTS:
Nearly 22% (32.4% women, 8.7% men) of the subjects were lifetime abstainers, 60.3% were non-heavy drinkers, and 17.5% reported heavy drinking in a 12-month period (26.3% men, 10.9% women). Subjects with the highest frequency of heavy drinking reported the most problems. Among subjects who did not engage in heavy drinking, men reported more problems than did women. A gender convergence in the amount of problems was observed when considering heavy drinking patterns. Heavy and frequent drinkers were twice as likely as abstainers to present lifetime depressive disorders. Lifetime nicotine dependence was associated with all drinking patterns. Heavy and frequent drinking was not restricted to young ages.
CONCLUSIONS:
Heavy and frequent episodic drinking was strongly associated with problems in a community sample from the largest city in Latin America. Prevention policies should target this drinking pattern, independent of age or gender. These findings warrant continued research on risky drinking behavior, particularly among persistent heavy drinkers at the non-dependent level.
doi:10.6061/clinics/2012(03)01
PMCID: PMC3297027  PMID: 22473399
Alcohol; Heavy episodic drinking; Binge drinking; Epidemiology; Brazil
7.  Early-life mental disorders and adult household income in the World Mental Health Surveys 
Biological Psychiatry  2012;72(3):228-237.
Background
Better information on the human capital costs of early-onset mental disorders could increase sensitivity of policy-makers to the value of expanding initiatives for early detection-treatment. Data are presented on one important aspect of these costs: the associations of early-onset mental disorders with adult household income.
Methods
Data come from the WHO World Mental Health (WMH) Surveys in eleven high income, five upper-middle income, and six low/lower-middle income countries. Information about 15 lifetime DSM-IV mental disorders as of age of completing education, retrospectively assessed with the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview, was used to predict current household income among respondents ages 18-64 (n = 37,741) controlling for level of education. Gross associations were decomposed to evaluate mediating effects through major components of household income.
Results
Early-onset mental disorders are associated with significantly reduced household income in high and upper-middle income countries but not low/lower-middle income countries, with associations consistently stronger among women than men. Total associations are largely due to low personal earnings (increased unemployment, decreased earnings among the employed) and spouse earnings (decreased probabilities of marriage and, if married, spouse employment and low earnings of employed spouses). Individual-level effect sizes are equivalent to 16-33% of median within-country household income, while population-level effect sizes are in the range 1.0-1.4% of Gross Household Income.
Conclusions
Early mental disorders are associated with substantial decrements in income net of education at both individual and societal levels. Policy-makers should take these associations into consideration in making healthcare research and treatment resource allocation decisions.
doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.03.009
PMCID: PMC3402018  PMID: 22521149
epidemiology; mental disorders; early-onset; income; cross-national; WHO World Mental Health (WMH)
8.  Screening for Serious Mental Illness in the General Population with the K6 screening scale: Results from the WHO World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative 
Data are reported on the background and performance of the K6 screening scale for serious mental illness (SMI) in the World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health (WMH) surveys. The K6 is a 6-item scale developed to provide a brief valid screen for DSM-IV SMI based on the criteria in the US ADAMHA Reorganization Act. Although methodological studies have documented good K6 validity in a number of countries, optimal scoring rules have never been proposed. Such rules are presented here based on analysis of K6 data in nationally or regionally representative WMH surveys in 14 countries (combined n = 41,770 respondents). Twelve-month prevalence of DSM-IV SMI was assessed with the fully-structured WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Nested logistic regression analysis was used to generate estimates of the predicted probability of SMI for each respondent from K6 scores taking into consideration the possibility of variable concordance as a function of respondent age, gender, education, and country. Concordance, assessed by calculating the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC), was generally substantial (Median .83; Range .76-.89; Inter-quartile range .81-.85). Based on this result, optimal scaling rules are presented for use by investigators working with the K6 scale in the countries studied.
doi:10.1002/mpr.310
PMCID: PMC3659799  PMID: 20527002
K6 screening scale; psychiatric epidemiology; serious mental illness (SMI)
9.  Premarital mental disorders and physical violence in marriage: cross-national study of married couples 
The British Journal of Psychiatry  2011;199(4):330-337.
Background
Mental disorders may increase the risk of physical violence among married couples.
Aims
To estimate associations between premarital mental disorders and marital violence in a cross-national sample of married couples.
Method
A total of 1821 married couples (3642 individuals) from 11 countries were interviewed as part of the World Health Organization's World Mental Health Survey Initiative. Sixteen mental disorders with onset prior to marriage were examined as predictors of marital violence reported by either spouse.
Results
Any physical violence was reported by one or both spouses in 20% of couples, and was associated with husbands' externalising disorders (OR = 1.7, 95% CI 1.2-2.3). Overall, the population attributable risk for marital violence related to premarital mental disorders was estimated to be 17.2%.
Conclusions
Husbands' externalising disorders had a modest but consistent association with marital violence across diverse countries. This finding has implications for the development of targeted interventions to reduce risk of marital violence.
doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.110.084061
PMCID: PMC3184228  PMID: 21778172
10.  Treatment of suicidal people around the world † 
Background
Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide; however, little information is available about the treatment of suicidal people, or about barriers to treatment.
Aims
To examine the receipt of mental health treatment and barriers to care among suicidal people around the world.
Method
Twenty-one nationally representative samples worldwide (n=55 302; age 18 years and over) from the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Surveys were interviewed regarding past-year suicidal behaviour and past-year healthcare use. Suicidal respondents who had not used services in the past year were asked why they had not sought care.
Results
Two-fifths of the suicidal respondents had received treatment (from 17% in low-income countries to 56% in high-income countries), mostly from a general medical practitioner (22%), psychiatrist (15%) or non-psychiatrist (15%). Those who had actually attempted suicide were more likely to receive care. Low perceived need was the most important reason for not seeking help (58%), followed by attitudinal barriers such as the wish to handle the problem alone (40%) and structural barriers such as financial concerns (15%). Only 7% of respondents endorsed stigma as a reason for not seeking treatment.
Conclusions
Most people with suicide ideation, plans and attempts receive no treatment. This is a consistent and pervasive finding, especially in low-income countries. Improving the receipt of treatment worldwide will have to take into account culture-specific factors that may influence the process of help-seeking.
doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.110.084129
PMCID: PMC3167419  PMID: 21263012
11.  Mental Disorders in Megacities: Findings from the São Paulo Megacity Mental Health Survey, Brazil 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31879.
Background
World population growth is projected to be concentrated in megacities, with increases in social inequality and urbanization-associated stress. São Paulo Metropolitan Area (SPMA) provides a forewarning of the burden of mental disorders in urban settings in developing world. The aim of this study is to estimate prevalence, severity, and treatment of recently active DSM-IV mental disorders. We examined socio-demographic correlates, aspects of urban living such as internal migration, exposure to violence, and neighborhood-level social deprivation with 12-month mental disorders.
Methods and Results
A representative cross-sectional household sample of 5,037 adults was interviewed face-to-face using the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI), to generate diagnoses of DSM-IV mental disorders within 12 months of interview, disorder severity, and treatment. Administrative data on neighborhood social deprivation were gathered. Multiple logistic regression was used to evaluate individual and contextual correlates of disorders, severity, and treatment. Around thirty percent of respondents reported a 12-month disorder, with an even distribution across severity levels. Anxiety disorders were the most common disorders (affecting 19.9%), followed by mood (11%), impulse-control (4.3%), and substance use (3.6%) disorders. Exposure to crime was associated with all four types of disorder. Migrants had low prevalence of all four types compared to stable residents. High urbanicity was associated with impulse-control disorders and high social deprivation with substance use disorders. Vulnerable subgroups were observed: women and migrant men living in most deprived areas. Only one-third of serious cases had received treatment in the previous year.
Discussion
Adults living in São Paulo megacity had prevalence of mental disorders at greater levels than similar surveys conducted in other areas of the world. Integration of mental health promotion and care into the rapidly expanding Brazilian primary health system should be strengthened. This strategy might become a model for poorly resourced and highly populated developing countries.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031879
PMCID: PMC3279422  PMID: 22348135
12.  Childhood adversities and adult psychopathology in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys 
The British Journal of Psychiatry  2010;197(5):378-385.
Background
Although significant associations of childhood adversities with adult mental disorders are widely documented, most studies focus on single childhood adversities predicting single disorders.
Aims
To examine joint associations of 12 childhood adversities with first onset of 20 DSM–IV disorders in World Mental Health (WMH) Surveys in 21 countries.
Method
Nationally or regionally representative surveys of 51 945 adults assessed childhood adversities and lifetime DSM–IV disorders with the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI).
Results
Childhood adversities were highly prevalent and interrelated. Childhood adversities associated with maladaptive family functioning (e.g. parental mental illness, child abuse, neglect) were the strongest predictors of disorders. Co-occurring childhood adversities associated with maladaptive family functioning had significant subadditive predictive associations and little specificity across disorders. Childhood adversities account for 29.8% of all disorders across countries.
Conclusions
Childhood adversities have strong associations with all classes of disorders at all life-course stages in all groups of WMH countries. Long-term associations imply the existence of as-yet undetermined mediators.
doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.110.080499
PMCID: PMC2966503  PMID: 21037215
13.  Associations of serious mental illness with earnings: results from the WHO World Mental Health surveys 
The British Journal of Psychiatry  2010;197(2):114-121.
Background
Burden-of-illness data, which are often used in setting healthcare policy-spending priorities, are unavailable for mental disorders in most countries.
Aims
To examine one central aspect of illness burden, the association of serious mental illness with earnings, in the World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health (WMH) Surveys.
Method
The WMH Surveys were carried out in 10 high-income and 9 low- and middle-income countries. The associations of personal earnings with serious mental illness were estimated.
Results
Respondents with serious mental illness earned on average a third less than median earnings, with no significant between-country differences (χ2(9) = 5.5–8.1, P = 0.52–0.79). These losses are equivalent to 0.3–0.8% of total national earnings. Reduced earnings among those with earnings and the increased probability of not earning are both important components of these associations.
Conclusions
These results add to a growing body of evidence that mental disorders have high societal costs. Decisions about healthcare resource allocation should take these costs into consideration.
doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.109.073635
PMCID: PMC2913273  PMID: 20679263
14.  Cross-national epidemiology of DSM-IV major depressive episode 
BMC Medicine  2011;9:90.
Background
Major depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, yet epidemiologic data are not available for many countries, particularly low- to middle-income countries. In this paper, we present data on the prevalence, impairment and demographic correlates of depression from 18 high and low- to middle-income countries in the World Mental Health Survey Initiative.
Methods
Major depressive episodes (MDE) as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DMS-IV) were evaluated in face-to-face interviews using the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI). Data from 18 countries were analyzed in this report (n = 89,037). All countries surveyed representative, population-based samples of adults.
Results
The average lifetime and 12-month prevalence estimates of DSM-IV MDE were 14.6% and 5.5% in the ten high-income and 11.1% and 5.9% in the eight low- to middle-income countries. The average age of onset ascertained retrospectively was 25.7 in the high-income and 24.0 in low- to middle-income countries. Functional impairment was associated with recency of MDE. The female: male ratio was about 2:1. In high-income countries, younger age was associated with higher 12-month prevalence; by contrast, in several low- to middle-income countries, older age was associated with greater likelihood of MDE. The strongest demographic correlate in high-income countries was being separated from a partner, and in low- to middle-income countries, was being divorced or widowed.
Conclusions
MDE is a significant public-health concern across all regions of the world and is strongly linked to social conditions. Future research is needed to investigate the combination of demographic risk factors that are most strongly associated with MDE in the specific countries included in the WMH.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-90
PMCID: PMC3163615  PMID: 21791035
15.  Cross-National Analysis of the Associations between Traumatic Events and Suicidal Behavior: Findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(5):e10574.
Background
Community and clinical data have suggested there is an association between trauma exposure and suicidal behavior (i.e., suicide ideation, plans and attempts). However, few studies have assessed which traumas are uniquely predictive of: the first onset of suicidal behavior, the progression from suicide ideation to plans and attempts, or the persistence of each form of suicidal behavior over time. Moreover, few data are available on such associations in developing countries. The current study addresses each of these issues.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Data on trauma exposure and subsequent first onset of suicidal behavior were collected via structured interviews conducted in the households of 102,245 (age 18+) respondents from 21 countries participating in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. Bivariate and multivariate survival models tested the relationship between the type and number of traumatic events and subsequent suicidal behavior. A range of traumatic events are associated with suicidal behavior, with sexual and interpersonal violence consistently showing the strongest effects. There is a dose-response relationship between the number of traumatic events and suicide ideation/attempt; however, there is decay in the strength of the association with more events. Although a range of traumatic events are associated with the onset of suicide ideation, fewer events predict which people with suicide ideation progress to suicide plan and attempt, or the persistence of suicidal behavior over time. Associations generally are consistent across high-, middle-, and low-income countries.
Conclusions/Significance
This study provides more detailed information than previously available on the relationship between traumatic events and suicidal behavior and indicates that this association is fairly consistent across developed and developing countries. These data reinforce the importance of psychological trauma as a major public health problem, and highlight the significance of screening for the presence and accumulation of traumatic exposures as a risk factor for suicide ideation and attempt.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010574
PMCID: PMC2869349  PMID: 20485530
16.  Cross-National Analysis of the Associations among Mental Disorders and Suicidal Behavior: Findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(8):e1000123.
Using data from over 100,000 individuals in 21 countries participating in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys, Matthew Nock and colleagues investigate which mental health disorders increase the odds of experiencing suicidal thoughts and actual suicide attempts, and how these relationships differ across developed and developing countries.
Background
Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide. Mental disorders are among the strongest predictors of suicide; however, little is known about which disorders are uniquely predictive of suicidal behavior, the extent to which disorders predict suicide attempts beyond their association with suicidal thoughts, and whether these associations are similar across developed and developing countries. This study was designed to test each of these questions with a focus on nonfatal suicide attempts.
Methods and Findings
Data on the lifetime presence and age-of-onset of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) mental disorders and nonfatal suicidal behaviors were collected via structured face-to-face interviews with 108,664 respondents from 21 countries participating in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. The results show that each lifetime disorder examined significantly predicts the subsequent first onset of suicide attempt (odds ratios [ORs] = 2.9–8.9). After controlling for comorbidity, these associations decreased substantially (ORs = 1.5–5.6) but remained significant in most cases. Overall, mental disorders were equally predictive in developed and developing countries, with a key difference being that the strongest predictors of suicide attempts in developed countries were mood disorders, whereas in developing countries impulse-control, substance use, and post-traumatic stress disorders were most predictive. Disaggregation of the associations between mental disorders and nonfatal suicide attempts showed that these associations are largely due to disorders predicting the onset of suicidal thoughts rather than predicting progression from thoughts to attempts. In the few instances where mental disorders predicted the transition from suicidal thoughts to attempts, the significant disorders are characterized by anxiety and poor impulse-control. The limitations of this study include the use of retrospective self-reports of lifetime occurrence and age-of-onset of mental disorders and suicidal behaviors, as well as the narrow focus on mental disorders as predictors of nonfatal suicidal behaviors, each of which must be addressed in future studies.
Conclusions
This study found that a wide range of mental disorders increased the odds of experiencing suicide ideation. However, after controlling for psychiatric comorbidity, only disorders characterized by anxiety and poor impulse-control predict which people with suicide ideation act on such thoughts. These findings provide a more fine-grained understanding of the associations between mental disorders and subsequent suicidal behavior than previously available and indicate that mental disorders predict suicidal behaviors similarly in both developed and developing countries. Future research is needed to delineate the mechanisms through which people come to think about suicide and subsequently progress from ideation to attempts.
Please see later in the article for Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide. Every 40 seconds, someone somewhere commits suicide. Over a year, this adds up to about 1 million self-inflicted deaths. In the USA, for example, where suicide is the 11th leading cause of death, more than 30,000 people commit suicide every year. The figures for nonfatal suicidal behavior (suicidal thoughts or ideation, suicide planning, and suicide attempts) are even more shocking. Globally, suicide attempts, for example, are estimated to be 20 times as frequent as completed suicides. Risk factors for nonfatal suicidal behaviors and for suicide include depression and other mental disorders, alcohol or drug abuse, stressful life events, a family history of suicide, and having a friend or relative commit suicide. Importantly, nonfatal suicidal behaviors are powerful predictors of subsequent suicide deaths so individuals who talk about killing themselves must always be taken seriously and given as much help as possible by friends, relatives, and mental-health professionals.
Why Was This Study Done?
Experts believe that it might be possible to find ways to decrease suicide rates by answering three questions. First, which individual mental disorders are predictive of nonfatal suicidal behaviors? Although previous studies have reported that virtually all mental disorders are associated with an increased risk of suicidal behaviors, people often have two or more mental disorders (“comorbidity”), so many of these associations may reflect the effects of only a few disorders. Second, do some mental disorders predict suicidal ideation whereas others predict who will act on these thoughts? Finally, are the associations between mental disorders and suicidal behavior similar in developed countries (where most studies have been done) and in developing countries? By answering these questions, it should be possible to improve the screening, clinical risk assessment, and treatment of suicide around the world. Thus, in this study, the researchers undertake a cross-national analysis of the associations among mental disorders (as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition [DSM-IV]) and nonfatal suicidal behaviors.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected and analyzed data on the lifetime presence and age-of-onset of mental disorders and of nonfatal suicidal behaviors in structured interviews with nearly 110,000 participants from 21 countries (part of the World Health Organization's World Mental Health Survey Initiative). The lifetime presence of each of the 16 disorders considered (mood disorders such as depression; anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]; impulse-control disorders such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder; and substance misuse) predicted first suicide attempts in both developed and developing countries. However, the increased risk of a suicide attempt associated with each disorder varied. So, for example, in developed countries, after controlling for comorbid mental disorders, major depression increased the risk of a suicide attempt 3-fold but drug abuse/dependency increased the risk only 2-fold. Similarly, although the strongest predictors of suicide attempts in developed countries were mood disorders, in developing countries the strongest predictors were impulse-control disorders, substance misuse disorders, and PTSD. Other analyses indicate that mental disorders were generally more predictive of the onset of suicidal thoughts than of suicide plans and attempts, but that anxiety and poor impulse-control disorders were the strongest predictors of suicide attempts in both developed and developing countries.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although this study has several limitations—for example, it relies on retrospective self-reports by study participants—its findings nevertheless provide a more detailed understanding of the associations between mental disorders and subsequent suicidal behaviors than previously available. In particular, its findings reveal that a wide range of individual mental disorders increase the chances of an individual thinking about suicide in both developed and developing countries and provide new information about the mental disorders that predict which people with suicidal ideas will act on such thoughts. However, the findings also show that only half of people who have seriously considered killing themselves have a mental disorder. Thus although future suicide prevention efforts should include a focus on screening and treating mental disorders, ways must also be found to identify the many people without mental disorders who are at risk of suicidal behaviors.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000123.
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information about suicide in the US: statistics and prevention
The UK National Health Service provides information about suicide, including statistics about suicide in the UK and links to other resources
The World Health Organization provides global statistics about suicide and information on suicide prevention
MedlinePlus provides links to further information and advice about suicide and about mental health (in English and Spanish)
Further details about the World Mental Health Survey Initiative and about DSM-IV are available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000123
PMCID: PMC2717212  PMID: 19668361

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