The prevalence and correlates of hallucinations in a general population sample: findings from the South African Stress and Health Study

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African Journal of Psychiatry

Journal of Psychiatry

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University of Cape Town

Objective: Large epidemiological surveys conducted in the developed world have found rates of psychotic symptoms in the general population to be as high as 10-28%. However, there are few data available from developing countries, including African countries, on the prevalence and correlates of psychotic symptoms. This study investigates the prevalence and correlates of psychotic symptoms (ie hallucinations) in a general population sample of South African adults. Method: As part of the South African Stress and Health Study the prevalence of auditory and visual hallucinations was determined in a large community based sample of 4250 participants utilizing the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI). In addition, socio-demographic and clinical correlates as well as indicators of service utilization and functional impairment were determined. Results: The prevalence of any reported hallucination was 12.7%, a rate comparable to that found in studies from the developed world. Multivariate analyses revealed a significant association between role impairment, service utilisation, suicidality and reported auditory or visual hallucinations. No significant association was found between urbanicity and reported psychotic symptoms. Conclusion: Our finding that psychotic symptoms (ie hallucinations) are significantly associated with functional impairment and service utilization supports the potential clinical significance of such symptoms, even in the African context.