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Epidemiology of Mental Health Problems in the Middle East


This chapter provides reviews on mental health in the Middle East, with an emphasis on the magnitude, common presentations, determinants, and suggested solutions for disorders of mental health in the region.

All electronic databases were searched for studies on mental health in the Middle East region, and publications from 1990 to 2018 were searched, scrutinized, and summarized.

The data indicates that the Middle East has high rates of mental health disorders, and the rates are predicted to increase due to ongoing wars and conflicts. Large community-based studies reported that the prevalence of mental illness ranges from 15.6% to 35.5%, with the higher rates being in nations with complex emergencies such as war and famines. Mental illness is associated with 11.9 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) during the period from 1990 to 2013, with Palestine, Djibouti, and Somalia recording the highest DALYs in the region.

The most common mental disorders in the region are depression and anxiety, particularly in vulnerable groups such as females, the poor, unmarried, elderly, those suffering from chronic illnesses, victims of conflicts or violations of human rights, and refugees. The stigma attached to mental disorders is a common reason for not seeking for mental health care, and this leads to negative health outcomes. Important is the inverse association between religious belief and some mental illnesses, especially in cases of depression.

Suggestions for improving the mental health programs and services are recommended in the region. Decreasing the stigma attached to mental illnesses can be achieved through mass media, schools, universities, etc. Conflict resolution is required. More researches in mental health are needed across the Arab world.


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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder


Beck Depression Inventory


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5


Disability-adjusted life years


Eastern Mediterranean Region


Global Burden of Disease


Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale


Human immunodeficiency viruses


International Classification of Disease-10


Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


Major depressive episode


Post-traumatic stress disorder


United Arab Emirates


WHO-Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems


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Correspondence to Nahla Khamis Ibrahim .

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Ibrahim, N.K. (2021). Epidemiology of Mental Health Problems in the Middle East. In: Laher, I. (eds) Handbook of Healthcare in the Arab World. Springer, Cham.

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