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The psychological toll of slum living in Mumbai, India: A mixed methods study

Ramnath Subbaraman, Laura Nolan, Tejal Shitole, Kiran Sawant, Shrutika Shitole, Kunal Sood, Mahesh Nanarkar, Jess Ghannam, Theresa S. Betancourt, David Bloom and Patil-Deshmukh, Anita

Social Science & Medicine, 2014, vol. 119, issue C, 155-169

Abstract: In India, “non-notified” slums are not officially recognized by city governments; they suffer from insecure tenure and poorer access to basic services than “notified” (government-recognized) slums. We conducted a study in a non-notified slum of about 12,000 people in Mumbai to determine the prevalence of individuals at high risk for having a common mental disorder (i.e., depression and anxiety), to ascertain the impact of mental health on the burden of functional impairment, and to assess the influence of the slum environment on mental health. We gathered qualitative data (six focus group discussions and 40 individual interviews in July–November 2011), with purposively sampled participants, and quantitative data (521 structured surveys in February 2012), with respondents selected using community-level random sampling. For the surveys, we administered the General Health Questionnaire-12 (GHQ) to screen for common mental disorders (CMDs), the WHO Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 (WHO DAS) to screen for functional impairment, and a slum adversity questionnaire, which we used to create a composite Slum Adversity Index (SAI) score. Twenty-three percent of individuals have a GHQ score ≥5, suggesting they are at high risk for having a CMD. Psychological distress is a major contributor to the slum's overall burden of functional impairment. In a multivariable logistic regression model, household income, poverty-related factors, and the SAI score all have strong independent associations with CMD risk. The qualitative findings suggest that non-notified status plays a central role in creating psychological distress—by creating and exacerbating deprivations that serve as sources of stress, by placing slum residents in an inherently antagonistic relationship with the government through the criminalization of basic needs, and by shaping a community identity built on a feeling of social exclusion from the rest of the city.

Keywords: Mental health; Common mental disorders; Depression; Poverty; Slums; Informal settlements; Urban; India (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2014
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