• Vol. 43 No. 11, 535–543
  • 15 November 2014

Hoarding in an Asian Population: Prevalence, Correlates, Disability and Quality of Life



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Introduction: Hoarding is defined as the acquisition of, and inability to discard items even though they appear to others to have no value. The objectives of the study were to establish the prevalence of hoarding behaviour among the general population and among individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in a cross-sectional study conducted in Singapore.

Materials and Methods: The Singapore Mental Health Study was a cross-sectional epidemiological survey of a nationally representative sample of residents aged 18 years or older, living in households. The diagnoses of mental disorders were established using Version 3.0 of Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI 3.0). Differences between 3 groups i.e. those diagnosed with lifetime/12-month Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) OCD with hoarding, those diagnosed with lifetime/12-month DSM-IV OCD without hoarding and those with lifetime hoarding behaviour without diagnosis of DSM-IV OCD were determined.

Results: The weighted prevalence of lifetime hoarding behaviour was 2% and that of hoarding among those with OCD was 22.6%. Those who met the criteria for hoarding behaviour alone were associated with lower odds of having obsessions of contamination, harming, ordering as well as compulsions of ordering and other compulsions than those who met criteria for both OCD and hoarding.

Conclusion: Hoarders without OCD were less impaired, in terms of comorbid psychopathology, than those with OCD with and without hoarding, and had a higher quality of life versus those with both OCD and hoarding, though still lower than that of the general population.

Hoarding is defined as the acquisition of, and inability to discard items even though they appear to others to have no value, leading to clutter, distress, and disability. The clutter in severe hoarding precludes the use of space to accomplish the activities for which they were designed, such as cooking, cleaning, moving through the house, and even sleeping. Interference with these functions makes hoarding a dangerous problem, putting people at risk for fire, falling (especially elderly people) and other health risks. According to the cognitive behavioural model of hoarding, the behaviour is driven by information processing deficits, fear of losing important items that the person believes will be needed later, distorted beliefs about the nature of possessions, exaggerated emotional attachment to possessions and avoidance of the anxiety associated with discarding and decision-making.

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