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A recent cross-national analysis involving 29 countries brings to light a pressing issue in global mental health: the likelihood of developing a mental disorder by the age of 75. This study, leveraging data from the World Mental Health Survey, represents a significant undertaking in understanding mental health patterns across different populations. As we delve into the findings, the study offers a vital perspective on the prevalence of mental disorders and the necessity of early intervention in mental healthcare.
A global survey
A global survey in 29 countries shows that one in two people develop a mental disorder during their lifetime. “Before age 75, about half the population can expect to develop one or more of the 13 mental disorders examined in this article,” say researchers from the University of Queensland and Harvard Medical School.
The data from more than 150,000 adults came from WHO’s World Mental Health Survey, the largest-ever series of face-to-face psychiatric interviews. The interviews were conducted between 2001 and 2022 and assessed the age of onset, lifetime prevalence, and disease risk for 13 DSM-IV mental disorders up to age 75.
Mental disorders appear early in life
The researchers found differences between men and women. Severe depression, specific phobia (debilitating anxiety that disrupts daily life), and post-traumatic stress disorder were the most common mental health problems in women. Alcohol abuse, depression, and specific phobias are the most common disorders in men.
Despite the temporal nature of the study, these disorders generally first appear in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. “There is a peak in the prevalence of first disorders at age 15, with a median age of 19 years for men and 20 years for women,” says Professor McGrath. According to the researcher, it is, therefore, necessary to invest in mental health services with an emphasis on young people.
In closing, the findings from this 29-country study serve as a crucial reminder of the widespread impact of mental health issues globally. The revelation that half of the population may face a mental disorder by age 75 is not just a statistic; it’s a call to action. It highlights the need for comprehensive mental health strategies, with a focus on early detection and intervention. As we reflect on these insights, it becomes clear that investing in mental health services, especially for young people, is not just beneficial but imperative for the well-being of future generations.
McGrath, J. J., Al-Hamzawi, A., Alonso, J., Altwaijri, Y., Andrade, L. H., Bromet, E. J., … & [et al.]. (2023). Age of onset and cumulative risk of mental disorders: a cross-national analysis of population surveys from 29 countries. The Lancet Psychiatry. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(23)00193-1