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WHO South East Asia J Public Health. 2014 Apr-Jun;3(2):144-153. doi: 10.4103/2224-3151.206730.

Prevalence and risk factors for psychological distress and functional disability in urban Pakistan.

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University of Manchester, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan.
Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health (NHS) Trust, London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.



There is a close association between poor mental health status and both poor physical health and decreased productivity. An evidence base on the risk factors for psychological distress in low-income countries is lacking and is much needed to help develop appropriate interventions. We aimed to estimate the prevalence of psychological distress in urban Pakistan and identify associated risk factors and functional disability.


This was a population-based study of 18-75-year-olds in urban Pakistan. The Self-Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ) was offered to 1000 adults to measure psychological distress. The Life Events Checklist, Oslo-3 for Social Support and Brief Disability Questionnaires were used to establish social stressors, support and functional disability.


Questionnaires were completed by 880 (94%) eligible participants, of whom 41% of women and 19% of men scored 9 or more on the SRQ (possible range 0-20). Low educational status was associated with high rates of psychological distress. Women had significantly higher levels of distress than men and were less likely to receive practical support.


The prevalence of psychological distress was lower in urban Karachi than that reported previously for rural Punjab province, Pakistan. However, in urban Karachi, as in rural Punjab, socioeconomic status seemed to have more of an impact on the mental health of women than that of men.

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