38% of Europeans Suffering from Mental Illness

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A study on the Dresden University in Germany showed that about 165 million people in Europe or about 38% of the European population are suffering each year from psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, dementia or insomnia.

These mental illnesses cause huge social and economic detriments equivalent to about hundreds of billions of Euros. Considering that only about a third of all cases of mental illnesses are being treated through therapy or medication, people suffering from such conditions lose their fitness to work and often result to family problems, relationship breakdown and similar situations which, at the end of the day, affect the overall society.

The team who pioneered the study admits that mental disorders have become the largest health challenge of the continent in the 21st century. Apart from this staggering statistics, it is also evident that many private pharmaceutical companies have stepped back in funding the study of these brain related and psychiatric conditions and how these can be treated. This puts the burden on the government and health institutions to step up and provide funding for further studies about brain health.

Lead researcher Hans Ulrich Wittchen of the Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy stated that this huge gap needs to be closed. The three year study conducted by Wittchen and his group involved about thirty European countries including Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, etc—with an overall population of 514 million people. During their study, Ulrich considered about 100 mental illnesses which over about almost all major brain disorders from simple anxiety to the most complicated form of schizophrenia. Other neurological and brain-function related conditions were also given weight like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

According to Wittchen, these mental health disorders and brain related illnesses give the government and economy an “exceedingly high burden”. Mental illnesses are one of the landmark causes of death, disability and lead to economic burdens at a global pace. In fact, the World Health Organization predicted that by the year 2020, clinical depression will be hailed as the second leading contributor of global burden of disease.

The said WHO prediction came earlier than expected, says Wittchen because currently, diseases involving the brain and mental function have become the leading burden of ill-health among the European Union countries. The four most disabling conditions in Europe has also been identified to be depression, dementia, alcohol dependence and stroke (cerebrovascular accident). Considering all these conditions, it is safe to presume that almost all, if not 3 out of these four conditions, with the exception of stroke, are psychological in nature.

Prior to the study, a similar survey was also conducted in a smaller scale, with about 301 million people. It showed that about 27% of Europeans have mental illnesses. The said study yielded a projected economic burden of about 386 billion Euros a year at that time. According to Wittchen, the amount could be more than that number, which was estimated back in 2005.

This, according to the researchers, is a wakeup call to the health policy makers to give priority to the screening and early treatment of people with such conditions to prevent the future risk of treating millions of mental patients in the future.




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