Background. We aimed to provide prevalence data on depression and other current mental disorders, impairment, need of psychiatric care and use of mental health services among young adults.
Methods. Based on a semi-structured clinical interview, current DSM-IV disorders, impairment, need of psychiatric care and use of mental health services were evaluated in a sample of 20–24-year-old young urban adults (N = 245), mean age 21·8, screened from a baseline population of 706. One-month prevalence estimates for disorders were calculated by the double sampling method, using various additional criteria to identify cases.
Results. One in four young adults (23·8%) suffered from a current mental disorder, the most prevalent being depressive (10·8%), anxiety (6·9%), substance use (6·2%) and personality disorders (6·0%). Prevalence estimates varied substantially according to the use of additional diagnostic criteria. Impairment (GAF < 61) together with DSM-IV symptom criteria produced an overall disorder prevalence of 10·3%, and 5·5% for depression. Prevalences were higher for females than males, except for alcohol abuse and personality disorders. Current co-morbidity was found in 39% of subjects with any disorder, and in more than half of those with depression. One-third of subjects with a current disorder reported an associated contact with psychiatric services and 16% had an ongoing contact.
Conclusions. Our findings support the use of additional criteria to produce clinically relevant prevalence data. Co-morbidity should receive special attention due to its amplification of both need for psychiatric care and severity of impairment. Finally, our results show disturbed young adults to be severely undertreated.