Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences

Original Articles

Treatment gap in common mental disorders: the Singapore perspective

S. A. Chonga1 c1, E. Abdina1, C. Sherbournea2, J. Vaingankara1, D. Henga3, M. Yapa4 and M. Subramaniama1

a1 Research Division, Institute of Mental Health

a2 The RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, USA

a3 Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, Ministry of Health

a4 Health Services Research & Evaluation Division, Ministry of Health


Aims. The problem of wide treatment gaps in mental disorders is endemic world wide. The study aims to establish the treatment gap of common mental disorders in Singapore.

Methods. A national sample of 6616 persons aged 18 years and above was surveyed with the World Mental Health Composite International Diagnostic Interview in which for each diagnostic module, respondents were asked a series of questions regarding treatment contact.

Results. Treatment gap varied considerably between disorders; alcohol abuse had the largest treatment gap (96.2%), followed by obsessive compulsive disorder (89.8%) and alcohol dependence (88.3%). The disorder for which people were most likely to seek help was major depressive disorder. Women with dysthmia were more likely than men to seek help but this help seeking behavior was reversed among those with alcohol abuse and dependence. Age of onset was significantly associated with treatment contact with those who had an earlier age of onset less likely to have treatment contact than those with late age of onset for all disorders except obsessive compulsive disorder.

Conclusions. Our findings suggest that treatment gaps are wide even in an economically developed country like Singapore and other than sociodemographic factors, cultural influences might play an important role in help seeking behavior.

(Received September 29 2011)

(Revised November 14 2011)

(Accepted November 15 2011)


c1 Address for correspondence: S. A. Chong, Institute of Mental Health. (Email: Siow_Ann_Chong@imh.com.sg)