Psychological Medicine

Research Article

Mental disorders in primary health care: a study of their frequency and diagnosis in four developing countries

T. W. Hardinga1 c1, V. De Arangoa12, J. Baltazara13, C. E. Climenta14, H. H. A. Ibrahima15, L. Ladrido-Ignacioa16 and N. N. Wiga16

a1 Investigators in a WHO Collaborative Study on Strategies for Extending Mental Health Care


1624 patients who were attending primary health facilities in 4 developing countries were examined to determine how many were suffering from mental disorder. Using stringent criteria to establish the presence of psychiatric morbidity, 225 cases were found, indicating an overall frequency of 13·9 %. The great majority of cases were suffering from neurotic illnesses and for most the presenting complaint was of a physical symptom, such as headache, abdominal pain, cough or weakness. The health workers following their normal procedure correctly detected one third of the psychiatric cases.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr T. W. Harding, Medical Officer, World Health Organization, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland. Principal investigator for the study.


2 Department of Psychiatry, Universidad del Valle, Cali Colombia. Co-investigator and chief investigator respectively of study area team in Colombia.

3 Institute of Public Health, Manila Philippines. Coinvestigator of study area team in Philippines.

4 Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Khartoum, Khartoum Sudan. Chief investigator of study area team in Sudan.

5 Department of Psychiatry, University of the Philippines System, Manila Philippines. Chief investigator of study area team in Philippines.

6 Department of Psychiatry, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh India. Coinvestigator and chief investigator respectively of study area team in India.