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Research on the structure of co-morbidity among common mental disorders has largely focused on current prevalence rather than on the development of co-morbidity. This report presents preliminary results of the latter type of analysis based on the US National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A).
A national survey was carried out of adolescent mental disorders. DSM-IV diagnoses were based on the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) administered to adolescents and questionnaires self-administered to parents. Factor analysis examined co-morbidity among 15 lifetime DSM-IV disorders. Discrete-time survival analysis was used to predict first onset of each disorder from information about prior history of the other 14 disorders.
Factor analysis found four factors representing fear, distress, behavior and substance disorders. Associations of temporally primary disorders with the subsequent onset of other disorders, dated using retrospective age-of-onset (AOO) reports, were almost entirely positive. Within-class associations (e.g. distress disorders predicting subsequent onset of other distress disorders) were more consistently significant (63.2%) than between-class associations (33.0%). Strength of associations decreased as co-morbidity among disorders increased. The percentage of lifetime disorders explained (in a predictive rather than a causal sense) by temporally prior disorders was in the range 3.7–6.9% for earliest-onset disorders [specific phobia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)] and much higher (23.1–64.3%) for later-onset disorders. Fear disorders were the strongest predictors of most other subsequent disorders.
Adolescent mental disorders are highly co-morbid. The strong associations of temporally primary fear disorders with many other later-onset disorders suggest that fear disorders might be promising targets for early interventions.
Burden-of-illness data, which are often used in setting healthcare policy-spending priorities, are unavailable for mental disorders in most countries.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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