Depression, anxiety top contributors to global disease burden for 3 decades: Analysis

Pandemic may increase cases; prevalence higher among women

By Taran Deol
Published: Thursday 13 January 2022
Depression, anxiety top contributors to global disease burden for 3 decades: Analysis Photo: iStock

Cases of mental disorders have gone up 48 per cent worldwide in the three decades since 1990, according to a new analysis. Depressive and anxiety disorders remained among the top 10 contributors to the global disease burden in this period, the report showed. 

In 1990, an estimated 654.8 million cases of mental health disorders were recorded, which increased to 970.1 million cases in 2019, the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD) 2019 showed. 

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has exacerbated conditions that trigger mental health disorders and the cases are set to increase in the coming years, the report underlined. It said: 

Epidemiological research suggests that the direct psychological effects of the pandemic and the long-term impacts on the economic and social circumstances of a population might increase the prevalence of common mental disorders.

There was a higher prevalence of mental health disorders in women (12,760 cases per 100,000 people) than men (11,727 cases per 100,000 people) in 2019, a trend that has remained consistent for three decades, the analysis of GBD 2019 data published in the journal Lancet January 10, 2022 found. 

Other mental health disorders considered in the analysis include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders, conduct disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eating disorders and idiopathic developmental intellectual disability. 

Women were more likely than men to suffer from depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and eating disorders. The reverse was true for ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. Schizophrenia and eating disorders had the lowest prevalence overall. 

Australasia (includes Australia, New Zealand and a few neighboring islands), Tropical Latin America and high-income North America had the highest prevalence of the aggregate of mental health disorders, according to the assessment.

A closer look at disorder-wise prevalence showed regional differences with depressive disorders being the most common in sub-Saharan Africa (4,540 cases per 100,000 people) and North Africa & the Middle East (4,348.9 cases per 100,000 people).

High-income countries also reported the highest prevalence of eating disorders, ADHD, conduct disorder and autism spectrum disorders.

Global disability-adjusted life-years by mental disorder, age & sex in 2019

Source: Lancet Psychiatry

Mental disorders in 2019 resulted in an increase in the number of
disability-adjusted life-years (DALY). One DALY represents a loss of one year of full health. 

The number of years of full health lost due to mental health disorders increased to 125.3 million globally in 2019 from 80.8 million in 1990, the analysis showed. 

DALYs due to mental health disorders in 2019 contributed 4.9 per cent to the overall figure. The share was 3.1 per cent in 1990. 

The number of DALYs increased steadily during childhood and adolescence, peaked at the 30-34 years and steadily declined thereafter, the report stated. 

The class of diseases was the 10th leading cause of increase in DALYs in 1990. In 2019, its rank worsened to 7th.

Burden due to mental disorders was present across all age groups, the analysis underlined. 

The diseases emerged before age five in the form of idiopathic intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorders, and continuing in older age groups with depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia, the report mentioned. 

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