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A narrative review of factors influencing detection and treatment of depression in Vietnam

Maria Niemi1*, Mats Målqvist2, Kim Bao Giang3, Peter Allebeck4 and Torkel Falkenberg5

Author Affiliations

1 Karolinska Institutet, Department of Public Health Sciences, Tomtebodavägen 18A, 17165, Stockholm, Sweden

2 Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Uppsala University, Drottningg. 4, 751 85, UPPSALA, Sweden

3 Hanoi Medical University, Hanoi, Vietnam

4 Karolinska Institutet, Department of Public Health Sciences, Tomtebodavägen 18A, 17165, Stockholm, Sweden

5 Karolinska Institutet, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Division of Nursing, Unit for Studies of Integrative Care, Stockholm, Sweden & IC – The Integrative Care Science Center, Järna, Sweden

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International Journal of Mental Health Systems 2013, 7:15  doi:10.1186/1752-4458-7-15

Published: 6 May 2013


Depression is among the most common psychiatric conditions in primary health care, and constitutes an important part of the global disease burden. However, it is difficult to obtain comparable data on depression worldwide and models for treatment and intervention need to be locally adapted. We conducted a narrative review of research literature on factors that influence depression screening, diagnosis and treatment among the Vietnamese population. This explorative approach included studies describing: a) culturally or contextually specific risk-factors for depression; b) any depression treatment seeking or treatment acceptability/adherence aspects or; c) depression screening among Vietnamese patients. We searched the PubMed and Cinahl databases, as well as relevant Vietnamese peer-reviewed journals and this produced 20 articles that were included in the review. Our findings indicate the importance of considering somatic symptoms when screening for depression in Vietnam as well as the use of culturally adapted and dimensional screening instruments. Our study confirms that depression reflects chronic social adversity, and thus an approach to mental health management that focuses solely on individual pathology will fail to address its important social causes. Further studies should elucidate whether neurasthenia is a commonly used illness label among Vietnamese patients that coincides with depression. The tendency among Vietnamese to seek traditional Vietnamese medicine and meditation practice when experiencing emotional distress was supported by our findings.

Vietnam; Depression; Mental health system; Depression screening; Depression treatment