The prevalence, age distribution and comorbidity of personality disorders in Australian women

Shae E Quirk, Michael Berk, Julie A Pasco, Sharon L. Brennan-Olsen, Andrew M. Chanen, Heli Koivumaa-Honkanen, Lisa M Burke, Henry J. Jackson, Carol Hulbert, Craig A Olsson, Paul Moran, Amanda L. Stuart, Lana J. Williams

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Objective: We aimed to describe the prevalence and age distribution of personality disorders and their comorbidity with other psychiatric disorders in an age-stratified sample of Australian women aged ≫/425 years. Methods: Individual personality disorders (paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, histrionic, narcissistic, borderline, antisocial, avoidant, dependent, obsessive-compulsive), lifetime mood, anxiety, eating and substance misuse disorders were diagnosed utilising validated semi-structured clinical interviews (Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV-TR Axis I Disorders, Research Version, Non-patient Edition and Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis II Personality Disorders). The prevalence of personality disorders and Clusters were determined from the study population (n = 768), and standardised to the Australian population using the 2011 Australian Bureau of Statistics census data. Prevalence by age and the association with mood, anxiety, eating and substance misuse disorders was also examined. Results: The overall prevalence of personality disorders in women was 21.8% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 18.7, 24.9). Cluster C personality disorders (17.5%, 95% CI: 16.0, 18.9) were more common than Cluster A (5.3%, 95% CI: 3.5, 7.0) and Cluster B personality disorders (3.2%, 95% CI: 1.8, 4.6). Of the individual personality disorders, obsessive-compulsive (10.3%, 95% CI: 8.0, 12.6), avoidant (9.3%, 95% CI: 7.1, 11.5), paranoid (3.9%, 95% CI: 3.1, 4.7) and borderline (2.7%, 95% CI: 1.4, 4.0) were among the most prevalent. The prevalence of other personality disorders was low (1/21.7%). Being younger (25-34 years) was predictive of having any personality disorder (odds ratio: 2.36, 95% CI: 1.18, 4.74), as was being middle-aged (odds ratio: 2.41, 95% CI: 1.23, 4.72). Among the strongest predictors of having any personality disorder was having a lifetime history of psychiatric disorders (odds ratio: 4.29, 95% CI: 2.90, 6.33). Mood and anxiety disorders were the most common comorbid lifetime psychiatric disorders. Conclusions: Approximately one in five women was identified with a personality disorder, emphasising that personality disorders are relatively common in the population. A more thorough understanding of the distribution of personality disorders and psychiatric comorbidity in the general population is crucial to assist allocation of health care resources to individuals living with these disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-150
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • comorbidity
  • epidemiology
  • Personality disorder
  • prevalence
  • psychiatry

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