Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Mental distress and social conditions and lifestyle in northern Norway.

British Medical Journal 1989; 299 doi: (Published 08 July 1989) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1989;299:85
  1. V. Hansen,
  2. B. K. Jacobsen
  1. Institute of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø, Norway.


    In a cross sectional survey of risk factors for coronary heart disease three questions about mental distress were included in a questionnaire completed by 13,704 people, 64% of the total population aged 20-54 in one municipality. Overall, 860 (12.5%) of the men and 1141 (16.8%) of the women reported having at least one symptom of mental distress. There were no distinct differences between the age groups. Single people, separated and divorced people, and those who reported that the financial situation of the family during their childhood was difficult reported more mental problems. Heavy smoking, frequent alcohol consumption, and, in men, little or no physical activity in leisure time were also associated with a high prevalence of mental distress. By multiple regression analyses, marital state, financial situation of family during childhood, and current lifestyle were found to be highly significantly associated with mental distress. Including a few questions on mental distress in health surveys provides a way to establish relations between such symptoms and social conditions and lifestyle in large numbers of subjects.