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Prevalence of psychological distress, depression and suicidal ideation in an indigenous population in Panamá. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2019 Oct;54(10):1199-1207



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OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of serious psychological distress (SPD), depression, and suicidal ideation in an adult Indigenous population in Panamá.

METHODS: Data were collected from 211 Kuna adults using a paper-based survey. Depression and suicidal ideation were measured using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), and SPD was measured using the Kessler-6. Univariate analyses were used to describe demographic variables, followed by chi tests to compare differences in demographic variables for each of the mental health outcomes (depression, serious psychological distress, suicidal ideation). A regression model, adjusted for all demographic variables, was then run for each mental health outcome to understand independent correlates.

RESULTS: Within the sample surveyed, 6.2% (95% CI 3.4-10.4) reported serious psychological distress, 32.0% (95% CI 25.7-38.9) reported depression, and 22.9% (95% CI 17.4-29.1) reported suicidal ideation. Significant demographic differences existed with 14% of individuals between the age of 60-90 and 17% of individuals with no education reporting SPD. Women were nearly 5 times more likely to report depression than men (OR 4.90, 95% CI 1.27-19.00) and those with higher incomes were less likely to report depression (OR 0.32, 95% CI 0.13-0.78).

CONCLUSION: High levels of depression, SPD, and suicidal ideation were present in an Indigenous Kuna community in Panamá. Women and individuals with low income were more likely to report depression, and SPD was more common in older individuals and those with low levels of education. Suicidal ideation was high across all demographic factors, suggesting that a community-wide program to address suicide may be warranted.

Author List

Walker RJ, Campbell JA, Dawson AZ, Egede LE


Aprill Z. Dawson PhD, MPH Assistant Professor in the Medicine department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Leonard E. Egede MD Center Director, Chief, Professor in the Medicine department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Rebekah Walker PhD Assistant Professor in the Medicine department at Medical College of Wisconsin

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