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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e48012. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048012. Epub 2012 Dec 12.

Importance of thinking locally for mental health: data from cross-sectional surveys representing South East London and England.

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  • 1King's College London, Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, London, United Kingdom.



Reliance on national figures may be underestimating the extent of mental ill health in urban communities. This study demonstrates the necessity for local information on common mental disorder (CMD) and substance use by comparing data from the South East London Community Health (SELCoH) study with those from a national study, the 2007 English Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Study (APMS).


Data were used from two cross-sectional surveys, 1698 men and women residing in south London and 7403 men and women in England. The main outcome, CMD, was indicated by a score of 12 or above on the Revised Clinical Interview Schedule. Secondary outcomes included hazardous alcohol use and illicit drug use. SELCoH sample prevalence estimates of CMD were nearly twice that of the APMS England sample estimates. There was a four-fold greater proportion of depressive episode in the SELCoH sample than the APMS sample. The prevalence of hazardous alcohol use was higher in the national sample. Illicit drug use in the past year was higher in the SELCoH sample, with cannabis and cocaine the illicit drugs reported most frequently in both samples. In comparisons of the SELCoH sample with the APMS England sample and the APMS sample from the Greater London area in combined datasets, these differences remained after adjusting for socio-demographic and socioeconomic indicators for all outcomes.


Local information for estimating the prevalence of CMD and substance use is essential for surveillance and service planning. There were similarities in the demographic and socioeconomic factors related to CMD and substance use across samples.

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