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19/09/2013 - Press release

Mental disorders are responsible for 17% of disability worldwide

That is one of the conclusions reached in the most recent report of the World Mental Health Surveys (WHO), which use more than 150,000 respondents from 24 countries.

Jordi Alonso, director of the Epidemiology and Public Health Programme of the IMIM-Hospital del Mar Research Institute in Barcelona, is the scientific coordinator of the European Study of the Epidemiology of Mental Disorders (ESEMeD), a component of the surveys. Mental disorders are a great burden, for individuals as much as for society. It is therefore important to know the direct costs of offering adequate attention as well as the social cost engendered by not offering it. With this objective the WHO carries out worldwide mental health surveys in order to portray a complete portrait of the situation of mental disorders in the world.

"It is the widest, deepest and methodologically most homogenous epidemiological study into mental health as yet. The analysis of the results includes how mental disorders affect education level, conjugal stability and violence, employment stability, truancy and the income of the people affected but also evaluate how the disorder is transmitted to descendants, the association of mental disorders with subsequent development of chronic conditions and the personal and social cost of these disorders" explains Jordi Alonso, director of the Epidemiology and Public Health Programme of the IMIM-Hospital del Mar Research Institute.

The World Mental Health Surveys were born under the auspices of the WHO with the objective of estimating the frequency, distribution and consequences of mental disorders in the world and thereby improve knowledge on the many forms of mental disorders – all of which impose different burdens on human beings – and strengthen public initiatives in the field. Their conclusions indicate a health care vacuum in the field of mental disorders in all countries, not only in less developed ones, and demonstrate the need to invest in improving the planning, organisation and provision of mental health services, as well as their evaluation at a global level.

The great dimensions of these surveys, the geographical representativeness of the samples, the exhaustive and standardised evaluation of disorders and their results in health and the use of sophisticated analytical approaches has allowed in depth analysis and comparative evaluation of disability in the 24 countries that cover the six regions of the world that the WHO has studied.

"For the first time the World Mental Health Surveys allow the evaluation of the consequences of mental disorders both on individuals and at a societal level. At the individual level they allow inferences to be made about those who suffer a certain disorder. At the societal level, where the prevalence of the condition is included, information more related to public health is provided" explains Jordi Alonso.

The report, which has just been published, has been edited by Jordi Alonso, director of the Epidemiology and Public Health Programme of the IMIM-Hospital del Mar Research Institute, in collaboration with Somnath Chatterji of the Department of Health Statistics and Information Systems of the World Health Organization (Geneva) and Yanling He, director of the Department of Epidemiology of the Shanghai Mental Health Centre (Shanghai).

"We firmly believe that the information gathered in this report will be very valuable to anyone involved in the establishment of policies on mental health, including epidemiologists, doctors, administrators, service managers and health economists" concludes Jordi Alonso.

Reference of the book: "The Burdens of Mental Disorders Global Perspectives from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys". Edited by Jordi Alonso, Somnath Chatterji and Yanling He. Cambridge University Press. ISBN -978-1-107-01928-7 For further information, contact: IMIM Media Service, telephone (+34) 93.316.07.07 or (+34) 699.094.833.

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