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The burden of mental disorders in Europe (Europe)

September 8, 2011

On September 5, 2011 the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) released the results of a major study revealing that mental disorders and disorders of the brain are now Europe’s largest health challenge. In addition, the study shows that the majority of these disorders remain untreated.

The three-year, multi-method project includes 30 countries (the European Union, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway) with a total population of 514 million people. All major mental illnesses for children, adolescents, adults and the elderly are included, as well as a number of neurological disorders.

Some of the key findings from the study include:

  • 38 per cent of the EU’s population experience a mental disorder each year;
  • Mental disorders occur in all age groups, although the types of diagnoses vary in each group;
  • The most frequent disorders across all age groups, in descending order are anxiety, insomnia, major depression, somatoform disorders, alcohol and drug dependence;
  • No significant cultural or country variations were identified except for substance disorders and mental retardation;
  • Improvements have not been made in the treatment rates for these disorders when compared to the results of the 2005 study;
  • Only one third of people with a mental disorder are ever treated and even then there is a delay of several years before treatment begins;
  • Combined with neurological disorders, mental disorders constitute 26.6 per cent of the total disease burden in the European Union

The investigators stressed the need to address two priority issues:

  • Close the gap between diagnosis and treatment, particularly for the young where early treatment can prevent the progression of severe, multimorbid disease
  • A joint approach to the research and treatment of mental and neurological disease is recommended due to the overlap between cause and effect of these illnesses across the spectrum of life

To read the full report, “The size and burden of mental disorders and other disorders of the brain in Europe 2010”, go to¬†

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