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The term ‘global mental health’ came to the fore in 2007, when the Lancet published a series by that name.
To review all peer-reviewed articles using the term ‘global mental health’ and determine the implicit priorities of scientific literature that self-identifies with this term.
We conducted a systematic review to quantify all peer-reviewed articles using the English term ‘global mental health’ in their text published between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2016, including by geographic regions and by mental health conditions.
A total of 467 articles met criteria. Use of the term ‘global mental health’ increased from 12 articles in 2007 to 114 articles in 2016. For the 111 empirical studies (23.8% of articles), the majority (78.4%) took place in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), with the most in Sub-Saharan Africa (28.4%) and South Asia (25.5%) and none from Central Asia. The most commonly studied mental health conditions were depression (29.7%), psychoses (12.6%) and conditions specifically related to stress (12.6%), with fewer studies on epilepsy (2.7%), self-harm and suicide (1.8%) and dementia (0.9%). The majority of studies lacked contextual information, including specific region(s) within countries where studies took place (20.7% missing), specific language(s) in which studies were conducted (36.9% missing), and details on ethnic identities such as ethnicity, caste and/or tribe (79.6% missing) and on socioeconomic status (85.4% missing).
Research identifying itself as ‘global mental health’ has focused predominantly on depression in LMICs and lacked contextual and sociodemographic data that limit interpretation and application of findings.
Whereas genetic susceptibility increases the risk for major depressive disorder (MDD), non-genetic protective factors may mitigate this risk. In a large-scale prospective study of US Army soldiers, we examined whether trait resilience and/or unit cohesion could protect against the onset of MDD following combat deployment, even in soldiers at high polygenic risk.
Data were analyzed from 3079 soldiers of European ancestry assessed before and after their deployment to Afghanistan. Incident MDD was defined as no MDD episode at pre-deployment, followed by a MDD episode following deployment. Polygenic risk scores were constructed from a large-scale genome-wide association study of major depression. We first examined the main effects of the MDD PRS and each protective factor on incident MDD. We then tested the effects of each protective factor on incident MDD across strata of polygenic risk.
Polygenic risk showed a dose–response relationship to depression, such that soldiers at high polygenic risk had greatest odds for incident MDD. Both unit cohesion and trait resilience were prospectively associated with reduced risk for incident MDD. Notably, the protective effect of unit cohesion persisted even in soldiers at highest polygenic risk.
Polygenic risk was associated with new-onset MDD in deployed soldiers. However, unit cohesion – an index of perceived support and morale – was protective against incident MDD even among those at highest genetic risk, and may represent a potent target for promoting resilience in vulnerable soldiers. Findings illustrate the value of combining genomic and environmental data in a prospective design to identify robust protective factors for mental health.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with higher risk of incident hypertension, but it is unclear whether specific aspects of PTSD are particularly cardiotoxic. PTSD is a heterogeneous disorder, comprising dimensions of fear and dysphoria. Because elevated fear after trauma may promote autonomic nervous system dysregulation, we hypothesized fear would predict hypertension onset, and associations with hypertension would be stronger with fear than dysphoria.
We examined fear and dysphoria symptom dimensions in relation to incident hypertension over 24 years in 2709 trauma-exposed women in the Nurses’ Health Study II. Posttraumatic fear and dysphoria symptom scores were derived from a PTSD diagnostic interview. We used proportional hazards models to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for each symptom dimension (quintiles) with new-onset hypertension events (N = 925), using separate models. We also considered lower-order symptom dimensions of fear and dysphoria.
Higher levels of fear (P-trend = 0.02), but not dysphoria (P-trend = 0.22), symptoms were significantly associated with increased hypertension risk after adjusting for socio-demographics and family history of hypertension. Women in the highest v. lowest fear quintile had a 26% higher rate of developing hypertension [HR = 1.26 (95% CI 1.02–1.57)]; the increased incidence associated with greater fear was similar when further adjusted for biomedical and health behavior covariates (P-trend = 0.04) and dysphoria symptoms (P-trend = 0.04). Lower-order symptom dimension analyses provided preliminary evidence that the re-experiencing and avoidance components of fear were particularly associated with hypertension.
Fear symptoms associated with PTSD may be a critical driver of elevated cardiovascular risk in trauma-exposed individuals.
Abnormal thyroid function is prevalent among women and has been linked to increased risk of chronic disease. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been linked to thyroid dysfunction in some studies; however, the results have been inconsistent. Thus, we evaluated trauma exposure and PTSD symptoms in relation to incident thyroid dysfunction in a large longitudinal cohort of civilian women.
We used data from 45 992 women from the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II, a longitudinal US cohort study that began in 1989. In 2008, history of trauma and PTSD were assessed with the Short Screening Scale for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, PTSD, and incident thyroid dysfunction was determined by participants’ self-report in biennial questionnaires of physician-diagnosed hypothyroidism and Graves’ hyperthyroidism. The study period was from 1989 to 2013. Proportional hazard models were used to estimate multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for incident hypothyroidism and Graves’ hyperthyroidism.
In multivariable-adjusted models, we found significant associations for PTSD only with hypothyroidism [p-trend <0.001; trauma with no PTSD symptoms, 1.08 (95% CI 1.02–1.15); 1–3 PTSD symptoms, 1.12 (95% CI 1.04–1.21); 4–5 PTSD symptoms, 1.23 (95% CI 1.13–1.34); and 6–7 PTSD symptoms, 1.26 (95% CI 1.14–1.40)]. PTSD was not associated with risk of Graves’ hyperthyroidism (p-trend = 0.34). Associations were similar in sensitivity analyses restricted to outcomes with onset after 2008, when PTSD was assessed.
PTSD was associated with higher risk of hypothyroidism in a dose-dependent fashion. Highlighted awareness for thyroid dysfunction may be especially important in women with PTSD.