Mental disorders will affect half of the world’s population

According to a global study conducted jointly by scientists from the University of Queensland and Harvard Medical School, one in two people on the planet will be diagnosed with at least one mental disorder by the age of 75. The study analyzed data from 156,331 respondents from 32 World Mental Health Surveys conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 29 countries, including 12 low- and middle-income and 17 high-income countries between 2001 and 2022.

The study used a fully structured psychiatric diagnosis interview to assess age of onset, lifetime prevalence, and risk of developing 13 psychiatric disorders included in the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s official diagnostic manual, DSM-IV, up to age 75. The disorders included panic disorder or agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social phobia, specific phobia, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, alcohol dependence, substance abuse, drug dependence, ADHD, and intermittent explosive disorder.

The findings indicate a high prevalence of mental disorders, with approximately 50% of the population expected to develop at least one disorder by age 75. The most common disorders were mood disorders such as major depression or anxiety. The study also found that the risk of developing certain mental disorders varies by gender. Among women, the three most common mental disorders were depression, specific phobia (anxiety that interferes with daily life), and post-traumatic stress disorder. In men, the most common disorders were alcohol abuse, depression and specific phobias.

A key finding of the study was that a “significant proportion” of mental disorders are likely to first manifest in childhood, adolescence or young adulthood. In addition to traditional disorders that originate in childhood, such as ADHD, common mental disorders such as major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder often manifest between childhood and early adulthood. The peak age of first manifestation of the disorder occurred at age 15, and the average age of onset was 19 years for males and 20 years for females.

According to the researchers, their findings highlight the importance of timely intervention targeting people at risk, especially young adults. Given the young age of onset of some disorders, mental health providers should emphasize early diagnosis and intervention for young people.

In conclusion, mental disorders are a widespread problem affecting large numbers of people worldwide and impacting their well-being, work and social lives. The results of this study emphasize the need for early diagnosis and intervention in the lives of young people, especially those at risk. Mental health service providers should focus on providing effective diagnosis and treatment to ensure that services are available to those who need them.

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