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BACKGROUND: Most of the studies on psychological distress in Spain have been conducted in small geographical areas or specific population groups. However, there are no studies that provide representative data for each Autonomous Community (AC). The objectives of this paper are to determine, both in Spain and in the AC, the prevalence of psychological distress, diagnosis, use of psychoactive medication, social support and self-perceived health, as well as to study the association between psychological distress and the rest of the variables. METHODS: Cross-sectional study, using data from the 2006 National Health Survey, that was completed by 29,478 persons. Variables studied: sociodemographics, psychological distress (GHQ-12), self-perceived health, mental disorder diagnosis, functional social support (Duke) and use and prescription of psychoactive medication. RESULTS: The prevalence of psychological distress in Spain was 20,1%; the highest prevalence was found in Canary Islands (28,2%) and the lowest in La Rioja (12,2%). Among those who presented psychological distress, 62,4% had never received a mental disorder diagnosis, and 71,6% had not used psychoactive medication in the last year. The highest prevalences of non-diagnosed cases (81,8%) and cases non-treated with psychoactive medication (83,1%) were found in La Rioja, whereas the lowest prevalences were found in Asturias. Eight percent of the persons who presented psychological distress had low social support and 63,8% reported bad self-perceived health. CONCLUSIONS: Psychological distress is a prevalent phenomenon, and more than half of the persons who suffer it receive neither a diagnosis nor psychoactive medication. Moreover, there are considerable differences between the AC.


Journal article


Revista espanola de salud publica

Publication Date





29 - 41


Adolescent Adult Confidence Intervals Cross-Sectional Studies Data Interpretation, Statistical Female Health Care Surveys Health Services Accessibility Humans Male Mental Disorders/diagnosis/drug therapy/ epidemiology Middle Aged Prevalence Psychotropic Drugs/ therapeutic use Questionnaires Social Support Socioeconomic Factors Spain/epidemiology Stress, Psychological/diagnosis/drug therapy/ epidemiology