Rising Mental Health Disorders

A female rail traveller walks along the platform at Loughborough Junction railway station where a Samaritan's poster urges those with mental health issues, or even thoughts of suicide, to seek help from the registered charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, often through their telephone helpline, on 27th February 2021, in London, England. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty
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A woman passes a Samaritan's poster supporting mental health at London’s Loughborough Junction railway station. February 27, 2021. Image: Richard Baker/In Pictures via Getty Images

Estimated cases of mental disorders increased 48% between 1990 and 2019, according to an updated Global Burden of Disease analysis published yesterday in The Lancet Psychiatry.

  • 654.8 million estimated cases occurred in 1990, increasing to 970.1 million in 2019. 
  • The proportion of global disability-adjusted life years attributed to mental disorders increased from 3.1% to 4.9%.

Analyzing 12 mental disorders—including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and others—across 204 countries, researchers found: 

  • Depressive and anxiety disorders remained among the leading causes of burden worldwide.
  • Australasia, tropical Latin America, and high-income North America had the highest prevalence in the aggregate of mental disorders. 
  • Depressive disorders were high in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East.

True burden “still elusive”: In a commentary on the findings, Canada and UK researchers noted the data does not capture mortality and only partially captures disability, “preventing straightforward comparisons with other disorder groupings and with earlier estimates.”

The Quote: “Although it is important to consider the impact of COVID-19 on mental health, the existing unmet mental health needs of the population must also be considered as we focus on recovery from this pandemic,” the researchers wrote. 


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