Researchers in the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health investigated the discrepancies in reporting past mental health disorders and general medical conditions among midlife to late-life adults. The study included 1,071 adults who were asked to report any previous diagnosis for psychiatric disorders—such as major depressive disorder and substance use disorder—and other general medical disorders, such as diabetes and cancer. Self-reports from patients were compared with criteria-based diagnoses from records dating back 24 years. The results showed that 81 percent of the participants with a diagnosis for mental illness underreported their condition, compared with 13 percent who underreported general medical conditions.
"Stigma associated with mental disorders, as well as the fluctuating course of mental illnesses, might partly explain the discrepancies as well as differences in ages of onset of mental and physical disorders,” said Ramin Mojtabai, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., an associate professor and senior author of the study. Mojtabai concluded that because symptoms associated with general medical illnesses may be more prevalent in late life, patients may feel the need to report current ones over past mental illnesses.
To read more about stigma associated with mental illness and psychiatric disorders and late-late adults, see the Psychiatric News articles “Jeste, Saks Discuss Stigma, Resilience, and Recovery From Mental Illness.”
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