Description: This is a compilation of results from the first 17 sites completing the WHO World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative, the largest coordinated series of cross-national psychiatric epidemiological surveys ever conducted.
Purpose: The purpose of this book, the first in a series of at least three that are planned, is to inform readers of the global importance of mental illness and its treatment. Thirty sites representing 27 countries (~200,000 respondents) participated in these surveys, which began in 1998, and individual and summary comparison results from 17 sites/countries on four continents are presented. Surveys but not data cleaning were completed at the remaining sites by 2008; their results will be posted when available on the WMH web site. This volume focuses principally on the prevalence of mental disorders and their global impact, particularly vis-a-vis severity and disability, and on treatment adequacy/undertreatment.
Audience: The identified targeted audience is physicians and health policy planners. However, the subject matter seems to offer limited clinically relevant information for practicing physicians, at least in the U.S. It is more likely to appeal to psychiatrists, particularly psychiatric epidemiologists (such as this reviewer). The editors and contributing authors are experts in psychiatric epidemiology and survey design/development.
Features: The book is divided into four sections: methods, country-specific results, cross-national comparisons, and conclusions. The methods are detailed and presented lucidly and engagingly. Results and comparisons chapters illuminate these empirical data with plenty of tables and figures displaying patterns and correlates of prevalence and treatment from the cross-sectional surveys conducted in this cross-national naturalistic initiative. The concluding chapter succinctly summarizes the innovative aspects of the WMH surveys and addresses issues regarding the need for this descriptive epidemiological survey of mental disorders, its design and limitations, and measurement in cross-cultural research. References are not encyclopedic but pertinent and up-to-date through the current year (2008). The index includes definitions for acronyms/abbreviations used in the text, though the reader is not informed to look here.
Assessment: The editors and their collaborators have compiled a comprehensive and valuable set of cross-national data, and this first volume captures its richness in text, tables, and figures. Volume updates and listings of journal articles and reports from the WMH surveys will be available on the WMH web site. This book definitely belongs in academic medical center/university libraries, and is a highly recommended addition for the personal libraries of anyone interested in understanding the global burden of mental disorders and the underpinnings of its societal impact. I eagerly await the forthcoming volumes.