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Cross-national studies have found, unexpectedly, that mental disorder prevalence is higher in high-income relative to low-income countries, but few rigorous studies have been conducted in very low-income countries. This study assessed mental disorders in Nepal, employing unique methodological features designed to maximize disorder detection and reporting.
In 2016–2018, 10714 respondents aged 15–59 were interviewed as part of an ongoing panel study, with a response rate of 93%. The World Mental Health version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (WMH-CIDI 3.0) measured lifetime and 12-month prevalence of selected anxiety, mood, alcohol use, and impulse control disorders. Lifetime recall was enhanced using a life history calendar.
Lifetime prevalence ranged from 0.3% (95% CI 0.2–0.4) for bipolar disorder to 15.1% (95% CI 14.4–15.7) for major depressive disorder. The 12-month prevalences were low, ranging from 0.2% for panic disorder (95% CI 0.1–0.3) and bipolar disorder (95% CI 0.1–0.2) to 2.7% for depression (95% CI 2.4–3.0). Lifetime disorders were higher among those with less education and in the low-caste ethnic group. Gender differences were pronounced.
Although cultural effects on reporting cannot be ruled out, these low 12-month prevalences are consistent with reduced prevalence of mental disorders in other low-income countries. Identification of sociocultural factors that mediate the lower prevalence of mental disorders in low-income, non-Westernized settings may have implications for understanding disorder etiology and for clinical or policy interventions aimed at facilitating resilience.
Retrospective reports of lifetime experience with mental disorders greatly underestimate the actual experiences of disorder because recall error biases reporting of earlier life symptoms downward. This fundamental obstacle to accurate reporting has many adverse consequences for the study and treatment of mental disorders. Better tools for accurate retrospective reporting of mental disorder symptoms have the potential for broad scientific benefits.
We designed a life history calendar (LHC) to support this task, and randomized more than 1000 individuals to each arm of a retrospective diagnostic interview with and without the LHC. We also conducted a careful validation with the Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition.
Results demonstrate that—just as with frequent measurement longitudinal studies—use of an LHC in retrospective measurement can more than double reports of lifetime experience of some mental disorders.
The LHC significantly improves retrospective reporting of mental disorders. This tool is practical for application in both large cross-sectional surveys of the general population and clinical intake of new patients.
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