CAIRO: A quantitative study of mental disorders in Egypt has found that 16.93 percent of the adult population suffers from mental illness.
Although the study titled “A National Survey of Prevalence of Mental Disorders in Egypt: preliminary survey was conducted in 2003, the results were only very recently published in the 2009 January-February issue of the Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal.
The study, authored by five Egyptian psychiatrists from Ain Shams University’s Department of Community, Environment and Occupational Medicine, was conducted in households in Alexandria, Giza, Qaliubeya, Fayoum and Ismailia.
A total of 15,000 participants, aged between 18 and 64, were asked to complete a structured screening questionnaire used to diagnose mental orders.
The survey found that the three most common disorders indicated by the survey were mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder (6.43 percent) and anxiety disorders such as social phobia and post-traumatic stress disorder (4.75 percent).
Of those surveyed, 4.72 percent displayed symptoms of multiple disorders.
The most common disorders detected were a major depressive disorder (2.70 percent) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (2.52 percent).
The least common illnesses indicated in the survey were alcohol or drug dependence (5 cases) and adjustment disorder (4 cases).
However, the study acknowledges that the low incidents of drug or alcohol dependence may reflect the lack of privacy during interviews, which were conducted in the presence of other family members.
The survey found that the risk of mental disorders among women was two times higher than among men.
“Apart from the possible biological factors which may explain the differences in all societies, in many developing countries women bear the brunt of the adversities associated with poverty: less access to education, physical abuse from husbands, forced marriages, fewer job opportunities and, in some societies, limitation of participation in activities outside the house, the report explains.
The odds were also significantly higher among those living in Ismailia, Giza and Fayoum compared to those living in Alexandria.
“Other significant risk factors for mental disorders included occupation (housewife, unemployed) [and] marital status (widowed, divorced). Odds of mental disorders did not differ by residence, but were significantly lower among those having secondary or higher education, the study reads.
According to the study, the rates of mental illness indicated are similar to those in other Arab countries such as Lebanon, and comparable to some European countries such as France and the Netherlands.
The study says that under spending in Egypt’s health sector accounts for the knowledge gap regarding mental illness in Egypt.
“Although surveys of mental disorders have been carried out since the end of World War II, little is known about the extent or severity of untreated mental disorders, especially in developing countries like Egypt. Health care delivery in Egypt still faces many problems. Both facilities and staff tend to be unevenly distributed, clustering mainly in urban areas, such as Cairo and Alexandria.
“The total number of available beds for psychiatric is inadequate: less than 10,000 beds, around 13 per 100,000 [people]. The number of professionals specialized in mental health is far below international standards. The main obstacle facing the services, however, is that they are hospital-based rather than community-based.