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Salud mental

versión impresa ISSN 0185-3325


LARA MUNOZ, María del Carmen; MEDINA-MORA, Ma. Elena; BORGES, Guilherme  y  ZAMBRANO, Joaquín. Social cost of mental disorders: Disability and work days lost. Results from the Mexican survey of psychiatric epidemiology. Salud Ment [online]. 2007, vol.30, n.5, pp.4-11. ISSN 0185-3325.


When the impact of illness is evaluated by indicators like mortality, mental illness has a less significant impact than other illnesses. As a result, the impact of mental disorders was underestimated until the last two decades of the previous century This perception began to change as a result of two factors: On the one hand, the study of the Global Burden of Disease reported by Murray and Lopez, and, on the other hand, the definition of mental disorders by the American Psychiatric Association. The common element shared by these two factors is the inclusion of the concept of disability.

Disability is the deterioration of the expected functioning of a subject of a particular age and sex in a social context. It is a part of the social cost of illness.


To assess the disability burden associated with depression, mania, agoraphobia, social phobia, general anxiety, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) according to the Mexican Psychiatric Survey and to compare results with the disability produced by some chronic non-psychiatric conditions.


This survey is based on a stratified, multistage area, probabilistic sample of adults living in urban areas of Mexico. The instrument used was the third version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. We report the 12-month prevalence of psychiatric disorders as defined by DSM-IV criteria. We also evaluated non-psychiatric chronic conditions like diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, backache, and other painful illnesses, identified in general as "chronic conditions". Indicators of disability were Sheehan's scale and number of work days lost. This is an easy and fast self reporting scale, which can be used both in the clinic or research. The sub-scales can be added or averaged to obtain a total score. The scale of responses is a horizontal line with numerals from 0 to 10 and five verbal descriptions, with the description "Not at all" corresponding to a value of 0; "Mild" rangimg from 1 to 3; "Moderate" from 4 to 6; "Severe" from 7 to 9; and "Very severe" corresponding to 10.


Close relationships and social life were the areas most deeply affected. The disorders found to produce the highest levels of disability were depression, social phobia, and PTSD. The lowest disability levels were observed in chronic conditions. On the total score of Sheehan's scale, disorders with the highest level of disability were PTSD (mean 5.35 ± 0.307) and depression (mean 4.72 ± 0.167). Depression and panic attacks were the disorders by which most days were lost on average in the previous year (25.51, CI95: 16.53-34.5; 20, CI95: 3.02-36.97). Days lost were lower in chronic conditions than in the seven mental disorders studied (6.89, CI95: 3.04-10.74).


This is the first paper to demonstrate the impact of mental disorders in Latin America evaluating the association of disability with common mental disorders.

We have shown that mental disorders, especially depression, are associated with deficits in functioning and result in the loss of work days. We have also shown that persons with common mental disorders have, on average, higher levels of disability than those observed among persons with a wide range of chronic physical conditions. These results are consistent with prior studies in North America and Europe that have found that persons with common mental disorders experience substantial disability in social role functioning.

Palabras llave : Social cost; disability; lost days; depression; mental disorders.

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