Common mental disorders in primary care in Harare, Zimbabwe: associations and risk factors

Br J Psychiatry. 1997 Jul;171:60-4. doi: 10.1192/bjp.171.1.60.


Background: This study aimed to investigate the associations for common mental disorders (CMD) among primary care attenders in Harare.

Method: This was an unmatched case-control study of attenders at primary health clinics, general practitioner surgeries and traditional medical practitioner clinics; 199 cases with CMD as identified by an indigenously developed case-finding questionnaire, and 197 controls (non-cases), were interviewed using measures of sociodemographic data, disability, care-giver diagnoses and treatment, explanatory models, life events and alcohol use.

Results: CMD was associated with female gender (P = 0.04) and older age (P = 0.02). After adjustment for age, gender and site of recruitment, CMD was significantly associated with chronicity of illness; number of presenting complaints; beliefs in "thinking too much" and witchcraft as a causal model; economic impoverishment; infertility; recent unemployment; an unhappy childhood for females; disability; and consultations with traditional medical practitioners and religious priests.

Conclusions: Mental disorders are associated with female gender, disability, economic deprivation, and indigenous labels of distress states.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Caregivers
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology
  • Zimbabwe / epidemiology