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April 1, 1974

Epidemiological Psychiatry

Author Affiliations

University of Louisville School of Medicine Louisville

JAMA. 1974;228(1):103. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230260073041

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Epidemiology has made substantive contributions that led to the prevention of many infectious and deficiency diseases. Epidemiologists are now investigating the chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, apparently due to multiple factors, and the mental disorders, in large part a by-product of man's social existence. Epidemiological psychiatry is in an embryonic stage; as a field, it is exasperatingly nebulous yet, because of the sociocultural implications, the findings hold great interest for the public as well as for professionals.

This short lucid volume describes some of the major investigative work and points out the problems confronting researchers. The most important and perhaps the most baffling is the long-standing difficulty with conceptualizing and defining mental illness. For the most part, mental illness is a culturally defined condition; the definition varies from culture to culture, changes over time, and even contracts and expands in a given society within a few decades, especially