Depression and generalised anxiety in the general population in Belgium: a comparison between native and immigrant groups

J Affect Disord. 2007 Jan;97(1-3):229-39. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2006.06.022. Epub 2006 Aug 9.


Background: Knowledge of the mental health status of the general population in Belgium is limited. Only recently have prevalence rates and risk factors for depression and generalised anxiety been identified. However, the question remains whether there are statistically significant differences between foreign origin groups and the native population.

Methods: Basing our study on data from the Belgian Health Interview Survey 2001 and focusing on the adult population aged 18-65 (N=7224), we consider eight risk factors for depression and generalised anxiety as assessed by the Symptom Checklist 90-subscales. The risk factors are region of origin, gender, age, household type, labour market position, educational level, household income and home ownership. Our approach involves weighted logistic regression.

Results: Analysis shows that most depressive symptoms are more prevalent among persons of Turkish or Moroccan origin than among Belgians or people from other EU Member States. This is not the case, though, for anxiety symptoms. However, if we consider depression and generalised anxiety as a syndrome, we find significantly more of the 10% highest SCL-scores in Turkish and Moroccan immigrants. Multivariate analysis indicates that their higher prevalence rate of anxiety is entirely attributable to their lower socioeconomic position. In the case of depression, the risk decreases only partly, leaving a significant association with Turkish or Moroccan origin.

Conclusion: In Belgium, depression and generalised anxiety are more prevalent in the population originating from Turkey and Morocco than in population groups originating from within the European Union.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Belgium
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Emigration and Immigration / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ethnic Groups / psychology*
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Europe / ethnology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morocco / ethnology
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Turkey / ethnology