Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of mental disorders in the world health organization's world mental health survey initiative

Ronald C. Kessler, Matthias Angermeyer, James C. Anthony, Ron De Graaf, Koen Demyttenaere, Isabelle Gasquet, Giovanni De Girolamo, Semyon Guzman, Oye Gureje, Josep Maria Haro, Norito Kawakami, Aimee Karam, Daphna Levinson, Maria Elena Medina Mora, Mark A Oakley Browne, José Posada-Villa, Dan J. Stein, Cheuk Him Adley Tsang, Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, Jordi AlonsoSing Lee, Steven Heeringa, Beth Ellen Pennell, Patricia Berglund, Michael J. Gruber, Maria Petukhova, Somnath Chatterji, T. Bedirhan Üstün

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Data are presented on the lifetime prevalence, projected lifetime risk, and age-of-onset distributions of mental disorders in the World Health Organization (WHO)'s World Mental Health (WMH) Surveys. Face-to-face community surveys were conducted in seventeen countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East. The combined numbers of respondents were 85,052. Lifetime prevalence, projected lifetime risk, and age of onset of DSM-IV disorders were assessed with the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI), a fully-structured lay administered diagnostic interview. Survival analysis was used to estimate lifetime risk. Median and inter-quartile range (IQR) of age of onset is very early for some anxiety disorders (7-14, IQR: 8-11) and impulse control disorders (7-15, IQR: 11-12). The age-of-onset distribution is later for mood disorders (29-43, IQR: 35-40), other anxiety disorders (24-50, IQR: 31-41), and substance use disorders (18-29, IQR: 21-26). Median and IQR lifetime prevalence estimates are: anxiety disorders 4.8-31.0% (IQR: 9.9-16.7%), mood disorders 3.3-21.4% (IQR: 9.8-15.8%), impulse control disorders 0.3-25.0% (IQR: 3.1-5.7%), substance use disorders 1.3-15.0% (IQR: 4.8-9.6%), and any disorder 12.0-47.4% (IQR: 18.1-36.1%). Projected lifetime risk is proportionally between 17% and 69% higher than estimated lifetime prevalence (IQR: 28-44%), with the highest ratios in countries exposed to sectarian violence (Israel, Nigeria, and South Africa), and a general tendency for projected risk to be highest in recent cohorts in all countries. These results document clearly that mental disorders are commonly occurring. As many mental disorders begin in childhood or adolescents, interventions aimed at early detection and treatment might help reduce the persistence or severity of primary disorders and prevent the subsequent onset of secondary disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-176
Number of pages9
JournalWorld Psychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


  • Age-of-onset distribution
  • Lifetime prevalence
  • Mental disorders
  • Projected lifetime risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Phychiatric Mental Health


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