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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 1020-4989

Abstract

PUERTAS, Gloria; RIOS, Cielo  and  VALLE, Hernán del. The prevalence of common mental disorders in urban slums with displaced persons in Colombia. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2006, vol.20, n.5, pp. 324-330. ISSN 1020-4989.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892006001000005.

OBJECTIVES: To investigate the prevalence of common mental disorders in groups with a high percentage of families who have been displaced by armed conflict and political instability and are living in urban slum areas on the outskirts of Sincelejo, a city in the department of Sucre, Colombia. METHODS: A cross-sectional study was conducted, with two-stage random cluster sampling, in slum neighborhoods of Sincelejo that contain a high percentage of displaced persons. A household survey of persons 18 years old or older was used to determine the presence of common mental disorders-psychosomatic disorders, anxiety, and depression-in the population studied. A score of 7 or more on the first 20 questions of the Self-Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ) of the World Health Organization was used to determine the presence of a common mental disorder. We searched for associations among the studied variables (age group, gender, type of health care card, and length of residence in the neighborhood) and among those variables and the score on the SRQ. The chi-square test was used, with statistical significance set at 0.05. Logistic regression was carried out with all the related variables. RESULTS: The prevalence of common mental disorders in the adult population of the neighborhoods studied was 27.2% (95% confidence interval (95% CI) = 24.0% to 30.0%); 13.6% (95% CI = 11.4% to 16.1%) of the population surveyed had problems with excessive alcohol consumption. There was an association between the prevalence of common mental disorders and the type of health care card used (odds ratio = 1.66 for persons using the health care card for displaced persons versus persons using other types of health care cards). In addition, there was an association between the prevalence of common mental disorders and gender (OR = 1.78 for women); this association remained after adjusting for other explanatory variables. CONCLUSIONS: Using the study criteria (type of health care card and length of time living in the slum area), it was difficult to separate the displaced persons from other persons living in the same slum areas, and thus to measure the prevalence of common mental disorders among just the displaced persons. The prevalence of common mental disorders in the urban population studied showed a statistical association with the type of health care card, which in turn determined the level of access to public health services. This association between the type of health care card held and the prevalence of common mental disorders is strong enough to justify providing mental health care services to persons who have the health care card for displaced persons.

Keywords : Mental health; refugees; violence; Colombia.

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