Half of global population expected to have a mental illness by 75

Half of global population predicted to have a mental health condition by age 75, Lancet study

  • Researchers looked at 13 mental conditions including depression, anxiety, PTSD
  • Women were more likely to have major depression as well as an anxiety disorder 
  • READ MORE:  One in THREE people have had clinical depression at some point

Half of the world’s population could have a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety by age 75, a major study suggests. 

Researchers drew on two decades’ worth of World Health Organization surveys representing over 156,000 adults from 29 countries to look for trends in diagnoses.

They projected that one in two people could have at least one mental health disorder by the time they reach old age, a stark increase from the 2019 estimate of one in every eight.

The overall risk of developing a mental illness during one’s lifetime was 46 percent for male participants and a slightly increased 53 percent for females.

And women were at the greatest risk for post-traumatic stress disorder specifically, while men were more likely to abuse alcohol. 

The graph above shows the proportions of people who, at some point in their lives, experienced a different mental disorder. It reflects face-to-face interviews collected from 2001 through 2022. Women were more likely to experience an anxiety disorder and major depression, while men were more likely to abuse alcohol

The data set that researchers relied on was the largest coordinated series of in-person interviews on the issue of mental health

Major depressive disorder and specific phobias were equally common across both sexes.

Mental illness rates in the US are on the rise, having worsened over the past few years, during which time the number of suicides spiked from 45,900 to more than 48,000. 

The latest analysis highlights the fact that the mental health crisis is not contained to the US, but has reached global proportions.

The large-scale analysis was conducted by researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of Queensland in Australia who compiled data from face-to-face interviews with 156,331 people around the world from 2001 to 2022.

The interviews were part of WHO’s Mental Health Survey consisting of data from 29 countries, including the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Japan, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and several in Europe, the UK, South America and Africa.

The team’s findings were published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.  

Dr John McGrath, lead author of the study and a mental health researcher at the University of Queensland’s Brain Institute, said: ‘The most common were mood disorders such as major depression or anxiety. We also found the risk of certain mental disorders differed by sex.’

Women were considerably more likely than men to report having some variety of a diagnosed anxiety disorder in their lifetimes, at nearly 19 percent versus 11 percent. 

Women were also slightly more likely to have any type of mental disorder overall, at 29.8 percent compared to 28.6 percent of men.

At the time people were interviewed, the most common mental health issue among men was risky alcohol use and abuse (classified separately from alcohol dependence) with 14 percent reporting, followed by major depressive disorder, with 7.5 percent of men reporting that diagnosis. 

Five percent reported having a specific phobia, defined as debilitating anxiety that interferes with a person’s daily life.

Meanwhile, women most commonly reported major depressive disorder, with an incidence of 13.6 percent, making them nearly twice as likely than men to have that diagnosis. Women were also twice as likely to suffer from a specific phobia.

The study, useful in its ability to help researchers quantify the impacts various mental disorders have on a wide swathe of the population, also highlighted that the age of onset for any of these disorders is young – around 15 years old.

Nearly one-third of all US high schoolers report suffering from poor mental health. It comes as some of the nation’s leaders say the country is undergoing a youth crisis

The percentage of adults who report having been diagnosed with depression has reached 29 percent, which is almost 10 percentage points higher than in 2015

The study’s bevy of international authors took their findings to conclude that more financial and social investment should be made to better diagnose people and treat them at the earliest possible age, which would greatly increase their odds of living longer.

READ MORE: One in TEN high school students have attempted suicide

Dr Ronald Kessler, a healthcare policy specialist at Harvard University said: ‘Services need to be able to detect and treat common mental disorders promptly, and be optimized to suit patients in these critical parts of their lives.

‘By understanding the age at which these disorders commonly arise, we can tailor public health interventions and allocate resources to ensure that appropriate and timely support is available to individuals at risk’.

Experts and lawmakers alike have declared that the US is in the midst of a mental health crisis, which was exacerbated by pandemic-era lockdowns and isolation. Additionally, the curtailment of preventative mental health care and the underfunding of mental healthcare infrastructure means there are often not enough resources for everyone in need.

American teens are bearing the brunt of the crisis. During the pandemic, they were abruptly thrust into a world of online-only schooling and weren’t able to socialize and bond with friends.

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in 2021, 10.2 percent of US high school students said they had attempted suicide in the past 12 months, up from around 8 percent in 2019

Researchers found that 29.3 percent of American high schoolers said their mental health was regularly poor in the past year, including 40.8 percent of female students.

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