Introduction: There are many indications that mental health in Greenland is endangered and needs more attention.
Study design: A two-stage study of the prevalence of common mental disorders among a sample of primary health care patients.
Methods: 376 randomly selected patients from general consultations in two Greenlandic towns were screened with 12 questions from the General Health Questionnaire. From these patients, a sample of 100 patients, including more high- than low-scorers, was interviewed using the SCAN (Schedules for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry) Present Examination psychiatric interview.
Results: Estimated prevalence for the total study population of at least one psychiatric diagnosis was 49.3% (95% CI 39.7-59.0%). Most diagnoses were in the group of anxieties, somatoform disorders and depressive disorders. Many patients had more than one diagnosis. Lack of education and poor proficiency in Danish, as well as growing up in a family with severe alcohol problems, were high risk factors for a psychiatric diagnosis. Patients and physicians seemingly agreed on focusing on physical disorders at the consultation, and only a minority of mental disorders was recognised and treated as such by the physicians.
Conclusion: Mental disorders are prevalent but not sufficiently recognised and treated among patients in primary health care in Greenland. Their association with social and economic conditions calls for attention from the health services as well as from social and educational institutions.