Selected psychiatric problems among college students in two Arab countries: Comparison with the USA

Ziad Kronfol, Batoul Khalifa, Brigitte Khoury, Omar Omar, Sariah Daouk, J. P. de Witt, Nourehan El Azab, Daniel Eisenberg

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Abstract

Background: Psychiatric problems among college students on USA campuses are common. Little is known about similar problems in developing countries, particularly the Arab region. The goal of this study was to assess the frequency of selected psychiatric problems among college students in two Arab countries: Qatar and Lebanon, and to compare them to the USA. Methods: The Healthy Minds Study, an online confidential survey of common psychiatric symptoms designed for college campuses was used. We used the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) to screen for major depression, the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) to screen for generalized anxiety and the SCOFF questionnaire to screen for eating disorders. Comparisons were made using ANOVA, Chi-Square tests and logistic regressions. Results: A total of 1841 students participated in the study. The rates of depression (PHQ-9 ≥ 12), generalized anxiety (GAD-7 ≥ 10) and eating disorders (SCOFF≥3) at the combined Arab universities were 34.6, 36.1 and 20.4% respectively. The corresponding rates in the USA were: 12.8, 15.9 and 6.8% (p < 0.001 for all measures). The impact of psychiatric problems on functioning in general and academic performance in particular was more severe in the Arab countries compared to the USA (p < 0.001). Independent predictors of psychiatric problems in general included location, female gender, financial difficulties and poor grades. Being religious had a protective association with mental health. Conclusion: The rates of depression, anxiety and eating disorders were significantly higher among college students in Qatar and Lebanon compared to the USA. Additional research is needed to determine whether these results reflect methodological limitations or true differences in psychopathology across these populations. If replicated, the results indicate that the psychiatric problems on college campuses in the USA are a microcosm of a global problem that needs global solutions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2018

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Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Arab countries
  • College students
  • Cultural psychiatry
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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