Delays to diagnosis among people with severe mental illness in rural Vietnam, a population-based cross-sectional survey

Trang Nguyen, Thach Tran, Sally Green, Arthur Hsueh, Tuan Tran, Ha Tran, Jane Fisher

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Background: People with severe mental illness (SMI) living in low and middle-income countries can experience extended delays to diagnosis, which hinder access to medical treatment. The aims of this study were to describe the interval to diagnosis among these people in rural Vietnam and its associated factors. Methods: A population-based cross-sectional study was conducted among people with SMI in two provinces in Vietnam. The delay to diagnosis was defined as the time between the first abnormal behaviour being observed by family members and the formal diagnosis of psychosis. A multilevel linear regression was used to examine the factors associated with the delay to diagnosis. Results: Among 404 people with SMI from 370 households, the median delay to diagnosis was 11.5 months (IQR 0-168.0). Overall, 53.7% had a delay to diagnosis of less than one year (95% CI: 48.81-58.54). The financial burden of these people on their families was nearly USD 470/year. After adjusting for other factors at individual and household levels, living in a Northern province; older age, and having psychotic diagnosis before the implementation of the National Community Mental Health program (2003) were associated with a delay of more than twelve months to diagnosis. Conclusions: These data indicate that the implementation of a national policy for community-based care has been effective in reducing the delay to diagnosis in rural Vietnam. Therefore, there is a need for strengthening the program and mental health policies, focusing on public communication to improve mental health literacy and reduce stigma against SMI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number385
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2019


  • Delay to diagnosis
  • Financial burden
  • Severe mental illness
  • Vietnam

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