professor Frank Verhulst

"Measuring psychopathology is an obstacle." Frank Verhulst

Plenary lecture by Frank Verhulst, ESCAP 2009 Budapest

The importance of epidemiology

ESCAP 2009 Congress in Budapest, Hungary: original abstract by professor Frank Verhulst, Erasmus University Medical Center - Sophia Children's Hospital, Department of Child-and Adolescent Psychiatry, Rotterdam, The Netherlands – “The importance of epidemiology.” Plenary Session VI., 23 August 2009, 17:00, Chaired by R. Minderaa (Netherlands).

Ever since the introduction of epidemiological methods into the field of child and adolescent psychiatry, numerous studies have been published in which epidemiology plays a major role. The question arises in which ways epidemiology contributes to our understanding of child and adolescent mental health and to our every day clinical practice. In this presentation I will give an overview of major accomplishments of epidemiological studies in our field. The most classical type of study is the prevalence study of which numerous studies have been carried out. Although progress has been made, a major obstacle to prevalence and other epidemiological studies is how to measure psychopathology. This is especially relevant in a world which is characterized by huge movements of children across countries and cultures. Derived from prevalence studies are studies aimed to answer questions regarding the continuity and discontinuity of child psychopathology, even across generations, and regarding historical trends. Much more recent are epidemiological studies that aim to answer questions regarding the etiology of child psychopathology.

This is especially relevant for finding ways to prevent child psychiatric disorders. Large scale longitudinal epidemiological studies are currently producing results that may increase our understanding about which factors put children at risk and how this can be prevented.