Objective Extensive research has demonstrated high prevalences of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression (MD) in war-surviving populations. However, absolute estimates are lacking, which may additionally inform policy making, research and healthcare. We aimed at estimating the absolute global prevalence and disease burden of adult survivors of recent wars (1989–2019) affected by PTSD and/or MD.
Methods We conducted a systematic literature search and meta-analysis of interview-based epidemiological surveys assessing the prevalence of PTSD and/or MD in representative samples from countries with a recent war history (1989–2019). Drawing on the war definition and geo-referenced data of the Uppsala Conflict Database Programme and population estimates of the United Nations for 2019, we extrapolated the meta-analytic results to absolute global numbers of affected people. Drawing on disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) data of the Global Burden of Diseases Study 2019, we further calculated the PTSD-associated and MD-associated DALYs.
Results Twenty-two surveys (N=15 420) for PTSD, 13 surveys for MD (N=9836) and six surveys on the comorbidity of PTSD and MD (N=1131) were included. Random effects meta-analyses yielded point prevalences of 26.51% for PTSD and 23.31% for MD. Of those affected by PTSD, 55.26% presented with comorbid MD. Prevalence rates were not significantly associated with war intensity and length, time since war, response rate or survey quality. The extrapolation yielded 316 million adult war-survivors globally who suffered from PTSD and/or MD in 2019. War-survivors were almost exclusively living in low/middle-income countries (LMICs) and carried a burden of 3 105 387 and 4 083 950 DALYs associated with PTSD and MD, respectively.
Conclusions Since LMICs lack sufficient funding and qualified professionals to provide evidence-based psychological treatments for such large numbers of affected people, alternative and scalable strategies using existing resources in primary care and communities are required. Research is required to assist upscaling.
- mental health & psychiatry
- public health
Data availability statement
All data analysed in this meta-analysis and in the extrapolations is published and publically available.
This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.
Handling editor Seye Abimbola
Contributors THH and NM designed the study. THH and IV conducted the systematic literature search and data extraction. THH conducted the statistical analyses. THH wrote the manuscript. NM, SP and IV commented on and contributed to the manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.