Arab Men and Women’s Conceptualization of Mental Health and Depression: A Qualitative Study from the Middle East

  • Tam Truong DonnellyEmail author
  • Jassim Mohd Al Suwaidi
  • Awad Al-Qahtani
  • Nidal Asaad
  • Rajvir Singh
Original Paper


Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Among cardiovascular patients, depression is associated with an increased morbidity and mortality. Understanding how depression is conceptualized from cardiovascular patients’ perspective can help with prevention, early detection, and treatment for depression. This might reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, and save health care costs. To the best of our knowledge, there is no study in the Gulf region exploring depression among Arab cardiovascular patients. The purpose of this exploratory ethnographic qualitative research is to investigate how Arab male and female patients with cardiovascular disease conceptualize mental health and depression. Two theoretical frameworks guided this research: (1) The Ecological Perspective, and (2) Kleinman’s Explanatory Model of Health and Illness. Using maximum variation purposive sampling, thirty (30) male and twenty-five (25) female, self-identified, Arab cardiovascular patients were recruited as research participants. Individual in-depth interviews were conducted using a semi-structured questionnaire. Thematic analysis was performed to generate themes. Nvivo 10, a qualitative data analysis software, was used to organize the narrative data. The participants in this study placed great emphasis on the manifestations of mental illness and their impact on both themselves and their families. Four major themes were identified from their narratives: psychological and physical disturbances; unfavorable personal characteristics; work issues and financial constraints; lack of family and social support. The knowledge generated in this study might help increase awareness, prevention of and treatment for depression among cardiovascular patients in Qatar. The findings from this study can also be used to inform a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral intervention approach that is contextualized to meet the mental health care needs of Arab cardiovascular patients, thus reducing cardiovascular diseases morbidity and mortality in Qatar and the Gulf region.


Depression in cardiovascular patients Mental health in the Gulf region Arab mental health Mental health in the Middle East Arab cardiovascular patients Qualitative research 



This publication was made possible by a grant from Qatar National Research Fund under its National Priority Research Programme (NPRP 5-106-3-025). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of Qatar National Research Fund. The authors are grateful to all the patients who participated in this research, as well as to the Qatar National Research Fund which provided us with funding to conduct this study. The authors give their special thanks to staff at the Hamad Medical Corporation (Hamad General Hospital) who helped us recruit research participants. The authors thank our project manager IremMueed and research assistants Shima Sharara, Sarah Omar, Noha El Banna and Tamara Marji.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have any competing interests.

Ethical Approval

Ethics approvals were obtained from: the Hamad Medical Corporation Research Committee (Reference NO: RC/59412/2012), Qatar Supreme Council of Health (SCH-A-UCQ-050), and the University of Calgary’s Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board (E-24738).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of NursingUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Cumming School of Medicine, Community Health SciencesUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.Hamad Medical CorporationsDohaQatar

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