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MoG Man & Society vol. 21               Order this book on-line

Inge Lynge, 1997
Mental Disorders in Greenland. Past and Present.
76 pp. 250 DKK.

There are mental disorders in all societies, but the forms they assume and the courses they take are influenced by living conditions. The modernization of Greenland has had a profound influence on the lives of both individuals and families. The key to the understanding of many present-day phenomena is to be found in the past, or perhaps rather in the way in which traditional and modern ways of life are interwoven. For that reason, the book starts with an account of the traditional Eskimo way of life, the meetingwith European culture and the social developments after the Second World War as seen from a psychiatrist's point of view.Then follows a descriptive and analytical follow-up study of all Greenlandic patients of 15 and over who were admitted for the first time to a psychiatric hospital or ward between 1980 and 1984. These encompass 289 patients in all, 139 men and 150 women, corresponding to an annual rate of 230 men per 100,000 and 260 women per 100,000 aged 15 years and above. There were most men in the age group 20-24 years and most women in the age group 25-34 years. The most common causes of admission to hospital were suicidal or violent behaviour. Especially the youngest patients had grown up with problematic backgrounds, and of all age groups were those showing most signs of personality disturbances.24 men and 13 women were diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia - an annual rate of 41 men and 22 women per 100,000 aged 15 years or more. The average age for both sexes was 22. The low age on first admission to hospital and the high ratio of men to women are similar to the situation in developing countries, while the both clinically and socially serious course taken by the condition follows the pattern in industrialised countries.In a follow-up seven years later, the men had been in hospital for an average of 161 days and the women 98 days. 29 men and 20 women had died by the time of the follow-up study, of these 12 men and four women by suicide. Of those still alive at the time of the follow-up study, a third of the men and a quarter of the women showed no sign of mental illness. 15% of the men and 10% of the women were chronic patients whose health was seriously undermined. 19% of the men and 6% of the women were guilty of serious crimes against the person. The forensic problems are dealt with separately.
Key words Greenland, mental disorder, history, first admission, diagnoses, follow-up, suicide, forensic problems.

Meddr. Grønland, Man & Soc. 22, 1997