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Hoarding

Epidemiology of hoarding disorder (2013) 

A. Nordsletten, A. Reichenberg, S. Hatch L. Fernandez de la Cruz, A. Pertusa, M. Hotopf  and D. Mataix-Cols

 

Background

Hoarding disorder (HD) is a mental health disorder characterized by a persistent difficulty discarding possessions. This behaviour can result in the accumulation of a large and disruptive number of objects, possibly cluttering the home to the extent that it can no longer be used normally. Individuals can experience stress and impairment, as well as those around them being affected.

This study aimed to 1) provide an estimate of how common HD is and 2) describe the characteristics of people with HD and examine the health and behavioural features of sufferers.

How was the study conducted?

Participants were recruited via the South East London Community Health (SELCoH) study, a two-phase study of 1698 adults in two diverse London boroughs. People who were identified as possibly having a hoarding problem in phase one were eligible for HD assessment in a follow-up study. These 99 individuals (55% female), aged 16-77 years, who agreed to be re-contacted, completed self-report questionnaires and underwent in-home psychiatric interviews by trained researchers, to assess for HD. Interviews were conducted in participant’s homes during which the researchers made observations about the home environment.

What did we find?

We found that HD occurs in about 1.5% of people in SE London (19 people from the SELCoH study).

Individuals with HD were more likely to be older (average of 49 years compared to 39 years), widowed or divorced and to have financial difficulties compared to those without HD. About half of people with HD reported a current physical health condition, an additional mental disorder, and were receiving benefits. Those with HD were more likely to feel like their health limited their work and social activities and were more likely to have used mental health services, although not in the last year.

There was disagreement between some participant’s responses to the initial question that determined eligibility for the HD assessment and the researcher’s observations from the interview in their home, so there may be more people with HD than we found.

Conclusions

HD affects about 1.5% of people in South East London and these people are likely to experience financial adversity and poor mental and physical health. It appears that some people have poor insight into hoarding problems and HD may be more common than we found, so further research is needed in this area.

 

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