Changes in the Levels of Psychological Distress in Eight Countries of the former Soviet Union

B Roberts , Pamela Ann Abbott, M Mckee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


– The purpose of this paper is to compare levels of psychological distress in 2001 and 2010 in eight countries of the former Soviet Union and to explore how these changes vary for different population groups.

– Data were collected using two related studies from 2001 (n=14,242) and 2010 (n=15,081). Both studies consisted of nationally representative cross‐sectional household surveys in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine using a standardized questionnaire. Psychological distress was measured using a 12 item instrument, with scores of 10‐12 indicating high psychological distress. Changes in prevalence of high psychological distress were measured between 2001 and 2010 by country, gender, age group, educational level, disability status, personal support and household economic status using descriptive and prevalence rate ratio analysis.

– Levels of high psychological distress decreased from 8.7 per cent in 2001 to 4.9 per cent in 2010 for the whole study region (4.5 per cent to 2.8 per cent for men; 12.0 per cent to 6.5 per cent for women). All study countries recorded decreases in high psychological distress. The adjusted relative rate ratios indicate the observed decreases have not been experienced by men, older age groups, less educated respondents, those with a disabling health condition, low levels of support and bad household economic status.

– The study shows decreases in levels of high psychological distress in the study countries, but that decreases were less for socially and economically marginalised populations. This highlights the cycle of poverty, social exclusion and poor mental health in the region. Despite decreases of psychological distress among women, they continue to bear a significantly higher burden than men.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-152
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Public Health Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

The authors are grateful to all members of the Health in Times of Transition Project (HITT) study teams who participated in the co‐ordination and organization of data collection for this working paper. They are also grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions. The HITT Project was funded by the European Union's 7th Framework Programme, project HEALTH‐F2‐2009‐223344. The European Commission cannot accept any responsibility for any information provided or views expressed.


  • Mental health
  • Mental illness
  • Psychological distress
  • Psychological research
  • Social determinants
  • Soviet Union


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