BACKGROUND Psychiatric morbidity studies in developing countries have used diagnostic procedures of low reliability, without a clinical definition of caseness, producing descriptive data with limited application for mental health planning.
METHOD A two-stage cross-sectional design (with a sample size of 6476) was conducted to estimate the prevalence of DSM-III psychiatric diagnoses in three metropolitan areas of Brazil (Bras√≠lia, S√£o Paulo and Porto Alegre). All subjects were screened for the presence of psychopathology with a 44-item instrument (the QMPA) and a subsample was selected for a psychiatric interview.
RESULTS Age-adjusted prevalence of cases potentially in need of care ranged from 19% (S√£o Paulo) to 34% (Bras√≠lia and Porto Alegre). Anxiety disorders comprised the highest prevalences (up to 18%). Alcoholism yielded the most consistent prevalence levels, around 8% in all sites. Depression showed great variation between areas: from less than 3% (S√£o Paulo and Bras√≠lia) to 10% (Porto Alegre).
CONCLUSIONS Overall prevalences were high in comparison with previous studies conducted in Brazil. A female excess of non-psychotic disorders (anxiety, phobias, somatisation and depression) and a male excess for alcoholism were consistently found.