38 percent of Europeans are mentally ill
Mental disorders are far more widespread in Europe than previously thought. According to a study by the Technical University of Dresden (TU), around 38 percent of Europeans suffer from a mental illness such as anxiety disorders, alcohol habit, ADHD or depression within a year. In absolute terms, 168 million euros a year are mentally ill.
Phobias, depression and alcohol addiction: Around 164.8 million people in the European Union and three other countries suffer from a mental illness. In view of these dramatic figures, mental disorders are now one of the "greatest health policy challenges of the 21st century", as the Dresden psychologist and study author Prof. Hans-Ulrich Wittchen explained. The study results were presented on September 5, 2011 by the "European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) and the" European Brain Council (EBC) ". In addition to the figures, the researchers found “dramatic grievances in the care of patients with mental illnesses”. Only about a third of those affected experience therapy at all. However, the treatments are often not technically sound. In addition, many patients themselves do not know about their disorder. "The widespread ignorance in the population and in health policy regarding the various forms of mental disorders" is one of the reasons for the massive occurrence of the diseases.
For the first time, a realistic picture of the frequency and occurrence of mental disorders in Europe could be determined. Within one year, 38 percent of EU citizens of all ages suffered from clinically important mental illnesses. "Mental disorders are not a rare fate of a few," the authors emphasize. Because the brain as an extremely "most complex organ is just as often affected by disorders and diseases as the rest of the body".
Most suffer from anxiety and depression At 14 percent, anxiety disorders such as cardiac neurosis or social phobias come first. In second place with 6.9 percent are depressive episodes or manifested depression, followed by psychosomatic illnesses with 6.3 percent. Four percent of patients are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and five percent of children and adolescents suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Syndrome (ADHD). One percent of 60-65 year olds suffer from dementia. The figure for the 85-year-old is around 30 percent. If the neurological diseases were added, the "true extent" would be much worse, as the authors write in the study report. Millions of patients in the EU are affected by neurological diseases such as stroke, Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis. These patient groups are not included in the surveys.
All age groups affected by mental disorders It was striking that mental disorders are similarly common in all age groups and even widespread among children and young adults. Accordingly, it cannot be assumed that children or older people in particular are more frequently ill. In addition, the frequency and ranking of mental disorders, with the exception of addictions, was similarly distributed in all countries.
The results of the study are based on three years of work by a research team at the TU Dresden. All 514 million inhabitants of the 27 EU countries as well as the states of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland were included in the analysis. Over 100 different psychological and neurological clinical pictures were taken into account in the evaluations. This makes the study the first study worldwide to cover an almost complete spectrum of mental and neurological disorders.
If you compare the data with previous years, there are hardly any significant increases in frequency. In comparison to 2005 only the dementia diseases increased. But this is a result of demographic change because people are getting older, as the scientists emphasized.
Insufficient therapies and little background knowledge among those affected. According to the study, initial treatment usually takes years after the onset of the disorder. In many cases, the therapeutic approaches do not even meet the minimum requirements for sound and sustainable therapy. Therefore, the head of the study, Professor Wittchen, called for an end to the undersupply and misuse of patients. Many diseases usually start in early childhood and develop later. As a result, people suffer severely from the long-term effects. Therefore, the psychologist called for an early start. Due to the demographic change in societies and the steady increase in mental illnesses due to age, "concerted actions in basic clinical and health services research" must take place "in order to improve care and prevention" and to sustainably reduce financial burdens on the health system. Mental disorders are considered to be a far higher overall burden in the health care system than other diseases such as cancer or diabetes. The proportion of social systems is 26.6 percent based on the occurrence of all diseases.
"The low level of awareness of the problem coupled with the lack of knowledge of the true extent of the frequency, stress and cost of mental disorders in all societies and classes is the central obstacle to overcoming this challenge," says study author Wittchen. Therefore, the European budget for preventive research and treatment research would have to be increased significantly. This is the only way to limit the problem permanently. The figures determined largely coincide with current evaluations by the German health insurance companies. For several years now, these have repeatedly reported increases in mental illnesses. (sb)
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