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Am J Community Psychol. 1993 Oct;21(5):607-33.

Primary prevention of secondary disorders: a proposal and agenda.

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  • 1Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48106-1248.


This paper calls for consideration of a new class of preventive interventions designed explicitly to prevent comorbidity of psychiatric disorders. Epidemiologic data show that successful interventions of this type could be extremely valuable, as up to half of lifetime psychiatric disorders and an even larger percent of chronic and seriously impairing disorders occur to people with a prior history of some other disorder. Furthermore, a review of etiologic hypotheses concerning the causes of comorbidity suggests that interventions aimed at primary prevention of secondary disorders might be feasible. However, more basic risk factor research is needed on the causes of comorbidity before we can make a clear assessment of feasibility and discover promising intervention targets. A number of methodological problems arise in carrying out this type of formative research. These problems are reviewed and suggestions are offered for solutions involving innovations in measurement, design, and data analysis.

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