Prevalence of emotional and behavioural problems among 6–12 year old children in Egypt
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Epidemiological information about prevalence of child mental health problems is essential to inform policy and public health practice. This information is weak in many developing countries and those in developmental transition. There have been few such studies in Arab countries and none in Egypt. We conducted a population prevalence study of emotional and behavioural disorders among 1186 6–12 year old children in Minia, Egypt. Data was collected from teachers and parents using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire with a 98 and 91% response respectively. Prevalence of abnormal symptom scores is reported for both parents and teachers. Prevalence of probable psychiatric diagnoses was measured using the SDQ multi-informant algorithm. These prevalences have then been compared to published UK data. The prevalence of emotional and behavioural symptoms was high as reported by both parents and teachers (Abnormal total difficulties: teachers 34.7% (95% CI 32.0–37.5), parents 20.6% (18.2–23.2). Abnormal prosocial scores: teachers 24.9% (22.5–27.5), parents 11.8% (9.9–13.9)) but prevalence of probable psychiatric diagnoses was much lower (Any psychiatric diagnosis 8.5% (6.9–10.5); Emotional disorder 2.0% (1.2–3.0); Conduct disorder 6.6% (5.1–8.3); Hyperactivity disorder 0.7% (0.3–1.4)). Comparison with UK data showed higher rates of symptoms but similar rates of probable disorders. Despite public, professional and political underestimation of child mental health problems in Egypt, rates of symptoms are higher than in developed countries, and rates of disorders are comparable. These findings support greater investment in community and primary care prevention and treatment initiatives.
Keywordschildren emotional and behavioural disorders mental health developing countries Egypt
We are grateful to all the teachers and parents of children in Minia who filled in the questionnaires, to the school staff who helped distribute and administer the questionnaires and to the head teachers of the individual schools and the director of Minia Regional Education authority who agreed to collaborate with the study. We thank Professor Robert Goodman for advice about the use and analysis of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Dr. Louise Swift for providing statistical advice. This work contributed towards an MD degree at the University of East Anglia, UK, by the first author who self funded her studies.
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