What Is Psychiatric Morbidity?

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  • Written By: Kenneth W. Michael Wills
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 12 April 2014
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Psychiatric morbidity generally refers to the incidence of both physical and psychological deterioration as a result of a mental or psychological condition. The term usually applies to those who are acutely aware of their condition, despite the mental deterioration. According to the World Health Organization, morbidity itself is measured according the number of people affected, the types of illnesses, and how long the illness lasts. Therefore, the term also refers to the prevalence of psychiatric conditions within a specific social category. For example, medical students may suffer from acute psychiatric conditions due to burnout, and understanding the rate of which those conditions impact medical students as a social group would be the psychiatric morbidity of medical students.

Understanding psychiatric morbidity among social groups and society at large is a frequent concern of both scientific researchers and various administrative officials. Assessing the phenomena allows researchers and officials to better grasp the relationship between psychiatric conditions and activities, environments and social structures. Research is usually conducted by pinpointing a social group and taking a sample from the group and administering a questionnaire. First, a questionnaire is given to document the extent of various activities conducted and associated personality characteristics. Next, the results are cross referenced with Temperament and Character Inventories to determine if a morbidity exists, and if so to what extent.


Sometimes researchers will also use diagnostic interviews to affirm whether a psychiatric condition is indeed present with the participants in such studies. Once researchers are able to affirm the existence of a psychiatric morbidity, they can analyze that data to determine what characteristics or activities within the social group result in the psychiatric condition’s prevalence. Additionally, researchers can use this information to better understand how social groups at large handle the psychiatric conditions, whether through coping mechanisms or seeking treatment. Doing so can help administrators, public officials and healthcare providers better understand the factors contributing to psychiatric morbidity, how to better identify those conditions in individuals, while educating the social group at large.

Given the usage of psychiatric morbidity, it is therefore both an incidence and a measurement. Useful in making important decisions that can help social groups monitor and coordinate their activities and structures to achieve better mental health, morbidity of psychiatric conditions is an important component in understanding and achieving stable mental stability among populations. Developing effective strategies in preventing psychiatric conditions is also an important goal in understanding psychiatric morbidity among social groups.


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