Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Mental Disorders: The Greatest Health Challenge In The 21st Century

A landmark study presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology's conference in Paris this week is reporting that "mental disorders have become Europe’s largest health challenge in the 21 century."

The study included 514 million people from 30 countries and interrogated "all major mental disorders." Do you think it will help break through the stigma and lack of funding?

Here are some of their findings:
  • Each year, 38.2% of the EU’s population, 164.8 million people, suffer from a mental disorder.
  • The most frequent disorders are:
    • Anxiety (14.0%)
    • Insomnia (7.0%)
    • Depression (6.9%)
    • Somatoform disorders (6.3%)
    • Alcohol and drug dependence (>4%)
    • Attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorders (ADHD, 5% in the young)
    • Dementia (1% among those aged 60-65, 30% among those aged 85 and above)
  • Except for substance disorders and mental retardation, no significant cultural or country variations were found.
  • No improvements were found in the notoriously low treatment rates for mental disorders in comparison with the 2005 data. Still only one third of all cases receive treatment.
  • Millions suffer from neurologic disorders such as stroke, traumatic brain injuries, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, that may have to be counted on top of the above estimates.
  • Disorders of the brain, as measured by disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), are the largest contributor to the EU’s total morbidity burden.
  • The four most disabling conditions (in terms of DALY) were depression, dementias, alcohol use and stroke.
The study identified challenges:
  • The marginalisation and stigmatisation of many disorders of the brain.
  • The lack of public awareness about the full range of disorders of the brain and their burden on society.

I was wondering how the US compared and curiously an article appeared in my health news stream about this CDC study:

Mental Illness Surveillance Among Adults In The United States, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), September 2, 2011

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say:
"Mental illnesses account for a larger proportion of disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. In 2004, an estimated 25% of adults in the United States reported having a mental illness in the previous year. The economic cost of mental illness in the United States is substantial, approximately $300 billion in 2002."
They say nearly half of us will develop at least one mental illness during our lifetime. These are only reported illnesses. I imagine the number of unreported cases is considerable, especially addictions, in light of the stigma attached to mental illness.

They say that mental illness makes outcomes for chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, epilepsy, and cancer) worse, and that this increased morbidity is partly a result of lower use of medical care. Does that mean that having millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans costs taxpayers more?

Here's a map from the CDC showing the prevalence of depression among adults (over 18 years) in 2006. Their map showing "serious psychological distress" is identical:

Wouldn't it be nice if people could speak as openly about their dementia and depression as they do their heart disease and diabetes? Wouldn't it be nice if we saw mental illness as an opportunity to show compassion, instead of an opportunity to drug?


Anrosh said...

Easier said than done ! "Friends" run away from you (lest you ask them for help) and Extended relatives stop talking or make conversations very brief. People understand poverty only when it knocks at their door, same is the case with Mental Health.

Bix said...

I wonder how Pat Summitt's life will change now that she's announced her early-onset dementia. She said it wasn't going to keep her from coaching.

I read the story of Richard Taylor Ph.D. who lost his job "because I just happen to mention to my Dean that I had been diagnosed with a mild form of dementia that didn’t seem to be impacting my teaching (teacher of the year for three years in a row)."