A national survey on depressive and anxiety disorders in Afghanistan: A highly traumatized population

Kovess-Masfety, V.; Keyes, Katherine; Karam, Elie; Sabawoon, Ajmal; Sarwari, Bashir A.

This survey attempts to measure at a national level, exposures to major traumas and the prevalence of common mental health disorders in a low-income dangerous country, highly affected by conflicts: Afghanistan.

Trans-sectional probability survey in general population by multistage sampling in 8 provinces, represented nationwide: 4445 adults (4433 weighted),15 years or older, 81% participation rate. Face to face interviews used specific scales for measuring lifetime exposure (LEC 5 Life Events Checklist) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD Check List), a diagnostic standardized interview: Composite International Diagnostic Interview (Short Form) for.
Major Depressive Episode and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, plus scales for suicidal thoughts and attempts and psychological distress (MH5 and RE from SF36).

52.62% of the population is illiterate, 84,61% of the women do not have any source of income; 70.92% of the population lives in rural areas, 60.62% are below 35 years, 80% lives in very dangerous areas. 64.67% of the Afghan population had personally experienced at least one traumatic event; 78.48% had witnessed one such event. 60.77% of the sample experienced collective violence in relation to war and 48.76% reported four or more events; this very much differs across regions and levels of danger; women are less at risk for trauma except sexual violence, 35 years and above are more at risk than younger. 12-month PTSD prevalence reaches a high rate: 5.34% as MDE 11,71%, whereas GAD 2.78%; suicidal thoughts 2.26%, lifetime suicidal attempts 3.50% are close to reported in other countries. Women have more risk for PTSD (0R = 1.93) and suicidal behaviours (attempts OR = 1.92) than men; the number of events increases risk for MDE, PTSD and suicidal attempts, whereas education is protective. Exposure to different war events produced different mental health effects. People suffering from PTSD have higher risk to report 12-months suicidal ideations and lifetime suicidal attempts.

Our findings highlight the need to map the extent and the types of mental disorders post conflict; this would help maximise the help to be offered in guiding proper choice of interventions, including education.

Geographic Areas


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September 22, 2023


Mental health , Epidemiology, Survey, Trauma, Transcultural, Risk factors