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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Mental Health in Developing Nations - 2004-06-13

Broadcast: June 14, 2004

This is Robert Cohen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

A study has found that most people with severe mental health problems go untreated in developing countries. The World Health Organization says between seventy-five and eighty-five percent had no treatment within the past year. In developed nations, between thirty-five and fifty percent went untreated.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published the findings. Ronald Kessler of Harvard University and Bedirhan Ustun of the W.H.O. led the study. They examined the results of questions asked of more than sixty-thousand adults in fourteen countries.

The most developed nations were Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States. The less developed ones were Columbia, China, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria and Ukraine. Researchers gathered the information between two-thousand-one and two-thousand-three. They asked the same questions in every interview. They wanted to estimate how many people have mental disorders, and what kind. They also wanted to learn what treatment, if any, the people had received within the past year.

The problems considered included nervous anxiety and uncontrolled anger. Others were such things as eating disorders and disorders related to the use of alcohol and illegal drugs.

The percentage of people who said they had a mental disorder differed greatly from country to country. The researchers found that for most countries the rate was between nine and twenty percent. The United States had the highest, at twenty-six percent of those questioned. The Chinese city of Shanghai had the lowest, at four percent.

The researchers say they believe this difference shows how mental health is seen differently around the world. They say people in many non-Western countries are often less likely to admit they have problems.

In almost every country, the more severe a problem was, the more likely it was to be treated. Still, the researchers say many people with minor mental health problems are treated, while many with serious disorders are not. They say this is not simply a problem of limited treatment resources. It also shows that resources are not being used well.

The researchers call for new efforts at early intervention. They say early treatment of minor disorders could prevent many serious cases later. This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.

This is Robert Cohen.