One out of every two people in the world will develop a mental health disorder in their lifetime, a large-scale study has found. It also revealed that the risk of certain mental disorders differed by sex.
A global study co-led by researchers from the University of Queensland and Harvard University analysed data from over 150,000 adults across 29 countries between 2001 and 2022, according to a press statement by the former. The researchers found that half of the surveyed population will develop at least one mental health disorder by the age of 75. The data was taken from the largest-ever coordinated series of face-to-face interviews – the World Health Organisation’s World Mental Health Survey initiative.
The study showed that the most common were mood disorders such as major depression or anxiety. Among women, the three most common mental health disorders were depression, specific phobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder, while for men, they were alcohol abuse, depression, and specific phobia, according to the statement. Furthermore, the study indicated that the median age of onset for mental health disorders is 19 for men and 20 for women.
The study also found mental health disorders usually first emerge in childhood, adolescence or young adulthood. In the statement, Ronald Kessler from Harvard Medical School, Professor emphasised the need for investment in mental health services with a focus on young people.
“Services need to be able to detect and treat common mental disorders promptly, and be optimised to suit patients in these critical parts of their lives,” he said. “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.”
Currently, one in seven people between the ages of 10 and 19 have a mental disorder, accounting for 13% of the global burden of disease in the age group, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Young people with mental health conditions are specifically vulnerable to social exclusion, discrimination, stigma, educational difficulties, physical ill-health and human rights violations. WHO further highlighted that failure to address mental health disorders among young people will lead to long-term consequences, impairing physical and mental health and limiting opportunities.