Mental disorders account for a large proportion of disease burden worldwide. However, no published national studies have been undertaken to assess this assumption in the Arab world.
Elie Karam (St George Hospital University Medical Center and Balamand University, Beirut, Lebanon) and colleagues conducted face-to-face interviews with over 2800 adults representative of the adult population in Lebanon. They found one out of every 6 surveyed met criteria for having a mental disorder at some time in the previous year, the most common being anxiety followed by mood disorders. The investigators found that half the respondents were exposed to war-related traumatic events at some point in their lives, and this predicted having mental disorders in the past 12 months as well as their severity. Only one out of every 10 of respondents with a mental disorder obtained treatment, a proportion much lower than that found in industrialised countries.
Professor Karam concludes: "Mental disorders are common in Lebanon, with a prevalence equivalent to that in Western Europe. However, the number of individuals with mental disorders who are not receiving treatment is considerably higher in Lebanon than in Western countries."
In an accompanying Comment Ahmad Mohit (World Health Organization, Cairo, Egypt) states that the study emphasises the detrimental effect of war on mental health but also indicates the resilience of the Lebanese population.