, Volume 83, Issue 3, pp 394-405

The Epidemiology of Nonspecific Psychological Distress in New York City, 2002 and 2003

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Abstract

The 30-day prevalence of nonspecific psychological distress (NPD) is 3%, nationwide. Little is known about the prevalence and correlates of NPD in urban areas. This study documents the prevalence of NPD among adults in New York City (NYC) using population-based data from the 2002 and 2003 NYC Community Health Surveys (CHS) and identifies correlates of NPD in this population. We examined two cross-sectional random-digit-dialed telephone surveys of NYC adults (2002: N = 9,764; 2003: N = 9,802). Kessler's K6 scale was used to measure NPD. Age-adjusted 30-day prevalence of NPD declined from 6.4% [95% Confidence Interval (CI): 5.8–7.0] in 2002 to 5.1% [95% CI: 4.5–5.6] in 2003. New Yorkers who were poor, in poor health, chronically unemployed, uninsured, and formerly married had the highest prevalence of NPD. Declines occurred among those who were married, white, recently unemployed, and female. NPD prevalence in NYC is higher than national estimates. A stronger economy and recovery from September 11th attacks may have contributed to the 2003 decline observed among selected subgroups. The excess prevalence of NPD may be associated with substantial economic and societal burden. Research to understand the etiology of this high prevalence and interventions to promote mental health in NYC are indicated.

McVeigh, Thorpe, Maulsby, Henning, and Sederer are with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 125 Worth Street, New York, NY 10013, USA; Galea is with the University of Michigan School of Public Health, 1214 South University, Ann Harbor, MI 8104-2548, USA.