A new study suggests mental health disorders are Europe’s major health challenge as each year, nearly 40 percent of the population suffers from a mental disorder, with the most prevalent being anxiety disorders, insomnia, depression, somatoform disorders, and alcohol and drug dependence.
However, the new report shows a slight decrease in the rate of mental disorders it tracked from 6 years ago, suggesting little has changed in actual prevalence of mental disorders in Europe. What changed the most is how much more data the researchers decided to collect in this research update, studying more disorders and greater age ranges.
Experts from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) also report that the majority of the mental disorders are untreated.
The three-year study included 30 countries (the European Union plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway) and a population of 514 million people. Researchers included all major mental disorders for children and adolescents (2-17), adults (18-65), and the elderly (65+ years), as well as several neurological disorders.
Unlike America, the nations studied have a nationalized or socialized health care system which conceptually should improve access and care for individuals.
However, study authors discovered significant challenges and limitations for mental and neurological research and practice. Researchers discovered care is fragmented with marginalization and stigmatization toward disorders of the brain.
Further, the existence of low public awareness about the full range of disorders of the brain and their burden on society limits appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Each year, 38.2 percent of the EU’s population — or about 165 million people — suffers from a mental disorder. Mental disorders are prevalent in all age groups and affect the young as well as the elderly, revealing though differences in what diagnoses are the most frequent.
The most frequent mental disorders among Europeans are anxiety disorders (14 percent), insomnia (7 percent), major depression (nearly 7 percent), somatoform disorders (6.3 percent), alcohol and drug dependence (>4 percent), attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorders (ADHD, 5 percent in the young), and dementia (1 percent among those aged 60-65, 30 percent among those aged 85 and above).
No indications for increasing overall rates of mental disorders were found, when compared with the previous comparable study in 2005, which covered a restricted range of 13 diagnoses in adults only. The notable exception is an increase of dementia due to increased life expectancy.
The researchers found no improvements in the notoriously low treatment rates for mental disorders in comparison with the 2005 data. Still, only one-third of all cases receive treatment.
Those few receiving treatment do so with considerable delays of an average of several years and rarely with appropriate, state-of-the-art therapies.
Additionally, many millions of patients in the EU suffer from neurologic disorders such as stroke, traumatic brain injuries, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, cases that may have to be counted on top of the above estimates.
As the result, disorders of the brain, as measured by disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), are the largest contributor to the EU’s total morbidity burden, accounting for 26.6 percent of the total disease burden, covering the full spectrum of all diseases. The four most disabling single conditions were depression, dementias, alcohol use and stroke.
Researchers noted that a 2005 study found 27.4 percent of the population suffered from a mental disorder. But the current study’s numbers did not indicate an overall increase in prevalence of illness; rather, the new higher figure reflected the inclusion of some 14 new diagnoses not tracked in the earlier study, such as ADHD, mental retardation, sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, dementia and personality disorders.
Dementia and sleep problems accounted for most of the additional change.
The study concludes that “Concerted priority action is needed at all levels, including substantially increased funding for basic and clinical as well as public health research in order to identify better strategies for improved prevention and treatment for disorders of the brain as the core health challenge of the 21st century.”