Patterns and correlates of patient-reported helpfulness of treatment for common mental and substance use disorders in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys

WHO World Mental Health Survey Collaborators

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Patient-reported helpfulness of treatment is an important indicator of quality in patient-centered care. We examined its pathways and predictors among respondents to household surveys who reported ever receiving treatment for major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, specific phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or alcohol use disorder. Data came from 30 community epidemiological surveys – 17 in high-income countries (HICs) and 13 in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) – carried out as part of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s World Mental Health (WMH) Surveys. Respondents were asked whether treatment of each disorder was ever helpful and, if so, the number of professionals seen before receiving helpful treatment. Across all surveys and diagnostic categories, 26.1% of patients (N=10,035) reported being helped by the very first professional they saw. Persisting to a second professional after a first unhelpful treatment brought the cumulative probability of receiving helpful treatment to 51.2%. If patients persisted with up through eight professionals, the cumulative probability rose to 90.6%. However, only an estimated 22.8% of patients would have persisted in seeing these many professionals after repeatedly receiving treatments they considered not helpful. Although the proportion of individuals with disorders who sought treatment was higher and they were more persistent in HICs than LMICs, proportional helpfulness among treated cases was no different between HICs and LMICs. A wide range of predictors of perceived treatment helpfulness were found, some of them consistent across diagnostic categories and others unique to specific disorders. These results provide novel information about patient evaluations of treatment across diagnoses and countries varying in income level, and suggest that a critical issue in improving the quality of care for mental disorders should be fostering persistence in professional help-seeking if earlier treatments are not helpful.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-286
Number of pages15
JournalWorld Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Helpfulness of treatment
  • anxiety disorders
  • heterogeneity of treatment effects
  • mood disorders
  • patient-centered care
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • precision psychiatry
  • professional help-seeking
  • substance use disorders
  • treatment adher­ence


Dive into the research topics of 'Patterns and correlates of patient-reported helpfulness of treatment for common mental and substance use disorders in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this