Psychiatric Diagnoses Appear to be Underreported

On the Threshold of Eternity

On the Threshold of Eternity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new study in JAMA Psychiatry concludes that mental disorders are still being underreported by patients, including those who are in midlife to late life.

Researchers in the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined the answers of 1,071 adults asked to report previous psychiatric diagnoses (major depression, substance use disorder, serious mental illnesses), as well as other general medical disorders (e.g., diabetes and cancer). Self-reports were compared to actual records, showing that 81% of those with a psychiatric diagnosis underreported their condition, compared with 13% underreporting general medical conditions.

The researchers posit that stigma may be a cause. “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. Moreover, 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.

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