Open Access Open Badges Research article

Mental illness in metropolitan, urban and rural Georgia populations

William C Reeves1, Jin-Mann S Lin12* and Urs M Nater3

Author Affiliations

1 Public Health Surveillance and Informatics Program Office, Mail Stop E-33, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA

2 Chronic Viral Diseases Branch, Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, Mail Stop A-30, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA

3 Department of Psychology, University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:414  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-414

Published: 30 April 2013



Mental illness represents an important public health problem. Local-level data concerning mental illness in different populations (e.g., socio-demographics and residence – metropolitan/urban/rural) provides the evidence-base for public health authorities to plan, implement and evaluate control programs. This paper describes prevalence and covariates of psychiatric conditions in Georgia populations in three defined geographic areas.


Data came from the Georgia population-based random-digit-dialing study investigating unwellness and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in Georgia populations of three defined geographic areas (metropolitan, urban, and rural). Respondents were screened for symptoms of fatigue, sleep, cognition, and pain at household screening interviews, and a randomly selected sample completed detailed individual phone interviews. Based on the detailed phone interviews, we conducted one-day clinical evaluations of 292 detailed interview participants classified as unwell with a probable CFS (i.e. CFS-like; a functional somatic syndrome), 268 classified as other unwell, and 223 well (matched to CFS-like). Clinical evaluation included psychiatric classification by means of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM (SCID). To derive prevalence estimates we used sample weighting to account for the complexity of the multistage sampling design. We used 2- and 3-way table analyses to examine socio-demographic and urbanicity specific associations and multiple logistic regression to calculate adjusted odds ratios.


Anxiety and mood disorders were the most common psychiatric conditions. Nineteen percent of participants suffered a current anxiety disorder, 18% a mood disorder and 10% had two or more conditions. There was a significant linear trend in occurrence of anxiety or mood disorders from well to CFS-like. The most common anxiety disorders were post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (6.6%) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) (5.8%). Logistic regression showed that lower education and female sex contributed significantly to risk for both PTSD and GAD. In addition, rural/urban residence and Hispanic ethnicity were associated with PTSD. We defined moderate to severe depression as Major Depressive Disorder or a Zung score >60 and logistic regression found lower education to be significantly associated but sex, age and urbanicity were not.


Overall occurrence of anxiety and mood disorders in Georgia mirrored national findings. However, PTSD and GAD occurred at twice the published national rates (3.6 and 2.7%, respectively). State and local prevalence and associations with education, sex and urbanicity comprise important considerations for developing control programs. The increased prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders in people with a functional somatic syndrome (or CFS-like illness) is important for primary care providers, who should consider additional psychiatric screening or referral of individuals presenting with somatoform symptoms.