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Depression and mental wellbeing in people affected by leprosy in southern Nepal

Leprosy is still one of the most important causes of preventable disability throughout the world. In Nepal, 3.054 new cases of leprosy were reported in 2016. As well as potentially experiencing physical impairment, many people with leprosy also experience stigmatization and may suffer from mental health problems.

This study has two main objectives: (a) Establishing a baseline of the mental wellbeing status and level of depression in the leprosy affected population of southern Nepal, and (b) Examining factors that influence mental wellbeing and depression amongst people affected by leprosy in southern Nepal.

A cross-sectional survey was conducted to establish the baseline level of depression and mental wellbeing status and to investigate what factors influence the mental wellbeing and level of depression amongst leprosyaffected people in southern Nepal. The survey consisted of three interview-administered questionnaires: the Patients Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9) to measure the level of depression, the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) to examine mental wellbeing status, and the 5-Question Stigma Indicator – affected persons (5-QSI-AP) to measure the level of stigma.

The results show that people affected with leprosy in southern Nepal have a significantly lower level of mental wellbeing and a higher level of depression than the general population. Furthermore, multivariate regression analysis shows that both mental wellbeing and depression are affected by the level of perceived stigma, gender and disability grade. In addition to these factors, mental wellbeing is affected by what caste the person belongs to.
This study shows that there is a need for mental health care interventions on different levels. The factors identified in this study might be useful in identifying individuals with extra needs. Finally, these findings indicate further research on specific and practical interventions in order to improve the mental health of leprosy-affected people.

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