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Mental health in Northern Ireland: have “the Troubles” made it worse?
  1. D O’Reilly,
  2. M Stevenson
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, The Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr D O’Reilly, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Mulhouse Building, Royal Group of Hospitals, Grosvenor Road, Belfast BT12 6BJ, Northern Ireland; 


Objectives: To measure the effects of the civil unrest (the Troubles) on the mental health of the general population of Northern Ireland.

Design: A secondary analysis of a nationally representative population survey conducted in 1997.

Setting: Northern Ireland.

Methods: This is an analysis of the 1694 respondents (aged 16–64) who had their mental health assessed using the 12 question version of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ). The effects of the Troubles was based on the responses to two survey questions; one asking about the impact on respondent’s area; the second about the impact on the life of the respondent or their family. To model simultaneous effects, multiple logistic regression models were constructed with GHQ case as the dependent variable, the impact of the Troubles questions as independent variables, and the demographic, socioeconomic, and health related factors as covariates.

Results: 21.3% (361) of respondents said that the Troubles had either “quite a bit” or “a lot” of impact on their lives or the lives of their families and 25.1% (418) reported a similar impact on their area of residence. The likelihood of psychological morbidity increased the greater the extent to which the Troubles affected the respondent’s area or life, the association being stronger for the second factor. Neither demographic nor socioeconomic factors significantly diminished this relation although adjusting for health related factors did attenuate the magnitude of the odd ratios especially for the effects of the Troubles on area of residence.

Conclusion: It is probable that mental health of the population of Northern Ireland has been significantly affected by the Troubles. Whether this is attributable to the violence in itself or to other aspects of the Troubles is unclear and whether any additional inputs from psychiatric services are needed requires further study.

  • mental health
  • Northern Ireland
  • the Troubles

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  • Funding: none.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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