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Five crucial facts about mental health

Published on 24/04/17 at 04:07pm

7 April marked this year’s World Health Day, and for 2017 the WHO selected depression as the annual focus. Prevalent and debilitating, mental health remains a difficult treatment area, with rife stigma meaning many still do not seek treatment and even more remain undiagnosed.

On top of this, decreasing R&D investment from the life sciences industry over the past twenty years has meant a drought of new, innovative therapy options. We still have much more to learn and much further to travel in the treatment of these ailments, but you can build your own awareness with these illuminating mental health facts.  

1. Women show greater prevalence of mental health issues than men. In women, between the ages of 16 and 24, studies have shown that 26% are likely to have experienced a common mental health problem and have higher rates of self-harm, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. In comparison, 9% of males of the same age were found to exhibit similar problems – that’s almost three times less likely than their female counterparts. However, despite this, suicide rates are much higher in men, with as much as four times more male suicides than female in low-to-middle income regions in 2015.

2. Many people do not take the opportunity to seek professional help for the mental health problems they suffer. The WHO found that between 35% and 50% of those with severe mental health problems in developed countries did not seek treatment. The problem escalates even more when the person lives in a developing country, where rates jumped to 76% to 85% of people not seeking any treatment.

3. Mental health issues are one of the most prevalent forms of chronic conditions in the world. They are the second leading cause of years lived with a disability, behind only lower back pain. The WHO reported that untreated issues account for 13% of the total global burden of disease, and this represents 21.2% of years lived with a disability worldwide. It is projected that by 2030 mental illness will be the leading cause of mortality and morbidity globally. Of all mental health problems, depression is the primary constituent of this burden and the most dominant, followed by anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In 2013, depression was the most significant driver of disability in 26 countries.

4. The problems people face when suffering from mental health issues has a knock-on effect on the economy of the country. Though it is a very complex issue to determine, the Chief Medical Officer’s report in 2013 calculated the cost of mental health problems to the UK economy to be £70-100 billion a year, or 4.5% of gross domestic product (GDP). Oxford Economics estimated that the UK GDP in 2015 could have been over £25 billion higher were it not for the prevalence of mental health issues. On a wider scale, the WHO estimated that the cost to the global economy caused by depression and anxiety is more than $1 trillion every year.

5. Higher government spending to combat mental health issues could therefore save the country money in the long-term. A report by the WHO found that, on average, only 3% of governments’ budgets are spent on mental health. The WHO suggests that for $1 invested in treating mental health issues, there is a return of $4 in better health and work outcomes. Despite this, global health spending on mental health disorders reached an average of only 3% in recent years – this figure ranges from as low as 1% in low-income countries to 5% in high-income ones.

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