Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mental Health Across Europe

Liam has been posting recently about mental health. One source of data on this is international surveys which allow cross country comparisons. Share is especially useful in this regard. The following graph demonstrates that there is a considerable amount of variation in Europe with respect to depressive symptoms. This index is derived from 12 binary variables measuring the presence or absence of the following: depression, pessimism, wishing death, guilt, sleeplessness, disinterest, irritability, loss of appetite, fatigue, lack of concentration, lack of enjoyment, and tearfulness. The EURO-D scale has been previously validated (Prince et al., 1999), and seems like it should be less susceptible to the usual problems associated with self assessments as it directly measures the presence of these symptoms. I have just pooled the data from the first two waves and some countries are in here only once, and I have ordered the countries in the sample according to the mean of this scale. Nevertheless, the spread is pretty striking. At the individual level anything above 3 is potentially indicative of clinical levels of depression, which is very worrying for Italy, Israel, Spain and Poland. One explanation for these differences relates to the prevalence of different types of social networks, a topic I will post about again at some stage.

Of course this is before the recession. Angus Deaton’s paper on wellbeing and the financial crisis has already been mentioned here.


Kevin Denny said...

Interesting post. I am not sure what you mean by "directly measure" Mark. As I understand it, individuals were asked about the 12 items and specifically whether they had experienced them in the previous month- that sounds like self-assessment to me!
For example women score higher on this scale, as they usually do on such scales, partly because they are more to say they have these problems.

Mark McG said...

You're right Kevin, I was being a bit optimistic. Although I suspect it may be a little better to count these symptoms than ask someone straight out to rate how depressed they are.