Days out of role due to common physical and mental conditions: Results from the WHO World Mental Health surveys

J. Alonso, M. Petukhova, G. Vilagut, S. Chatterji, S. Heeringa, T. B. Üstün, A. O. Alhamzawi, M. C. Viana, M. Angermeyer, E. Bromet, R. Bruffaerts, G. De Girolamo, S. Florescu, O. Gureje, J. M. Haro, H. Hinkov, C. Y. Hu, E. G. Karam, V. Kovess, D. LevinsonM. E. Medina-Mora, Y. Nakamura, J. Ormel, J. Posada-Villa, R. Sagar, K. M. Scott, A. Tsang, D. R. Williams, R. C. Kessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Days out of role because of health problems are a major source of lost human capital. We examined the relative importance of commonly occurring physical and mental disorders in accounting for days out of role in 24 countries that participated in the World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health (WMH) surveys. Face-to-face interviews were carried out with 62 971 respondents (72.0% pooled response rate). Presence of ten chronic physical disorders and nine mental disorders was assessed for each respondent along with information about the number of days in the past month each respondent reported being totally unable to work or carry out their other normal daily activities because of problems with either physical or mental health. Multiple regression analysis was used to estimate associations of specific conditions and comorbidities with days out of role, controlling by basic socio-demographics (age, gender, employment status and country). Overall, 12.8% of respondents had some day totally out of role, with a median of 51.1 a year. The strongest individual-level effects (days out of role per year) were associated with neurological disorders (17.4), bipolar disorder (17.3) and post-traumatic stress disorder (15.2). The strongest population-level effect was associated with pain conditions, which accounted for 21.5% of all days out of role (population attributable risk proportion). The 19 conditions accounted for 62.2% of all days out of role. Common health conditions, including mental disorders, make up a large proportion of the number of days out of role across a wide range of countries and should be addressed to substantially increase overall productivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1234-1246
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • burden of disease
  • chronic disease
  • disability
  • mental disorders
  • prevalence
  • productivity loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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