Disability and quality of life impact of mental disorders in Europe: results from the European Study of the Epidemiology of Mental Disorders (ESEMeD) project

Acta Psychiatr Scand Suppl. 2004:(420):38-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0047.2004.00329.x.


Objective: This manuscript examines the impact of mental health state and specific mental and physical disorders on work role disability and quality of life in six European countries.

Method: The ESEMeD study was conducted in: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. Individuals aged 18 years and over who were not institutionalized were eligible for an in-home computer-assisted interview. Common mental disorders, work loss days (WLD) in the past month and quality of life (QoL) were assessed, using the WMH-2000 version of the CIDI, the WHODAS-II, and the mental and physical component scores (MCS, PCS) of the 12-item short form, respectively. The presence of five chronic physical disorders: arthritis, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and neurological disease was also assessed. Multivariate regression techniques were used to identify the independent association of mental and physical disorders while controlling for gender, age and country.

Results: In each country, WLD and loss of QoL increased with the number of disorders. Most mental disorders had approximately 1.0 SD-unit lower mean MCS and lost three to four times more work days, compared with people without any 12-month mental disorder. The 10 disorders with the highest independent impact on WLD were: neurological disease, panic disorder, PTSD, major depressive episode, dysthymia, specific phobia, social phobia, arthritis, agoraphobia and heart disease. The impact of mental vs. physical disorders on QoL was specific, with mental disorders impacting more on MCS and physical disorders more on PCS. Compared to physical disorders, mental disorders had generally stronger 'cross-domain' effects.

Conclusion: The results suggest that mental disorders are important determinants of work role disability and quality of life, often outnumbering the impact of common chronic physical disorders.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Demography
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires