Researchers from The University of Queensland and Harvard Medical School, in a collaborative global study, have discovered that one in two people will develop a mental health disorder in their lifetime.
Professors John McGrath of UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute and Ronald Kessler of Harvard Medical School, together with experts from 27 additional nations, examined data from over 150,000 adults spanning 29 countries from 2001 to 2022. This data was sourced from the largest-ever coordinated series of face-to-face interviews – the World Health Organisation’s World Mental Health Survey initiative.
Lead author Professor McGrath said the results demonstrate the high prevalence of mental health disorders, with 50 percent of the population developing at least one disorder by the age of 75.
“The most common were mood disorders such as major depression or anxiety,” Professor McGrath said. “We also found the risk of certain mental disorders differed by sex.”
The 3 most common mental health disorders among women:
- Specific phobia (a disabling anxiety that interferes with daily life)
- Post-traumatic stress (PTSD)
The 3 most common mental health disorders among men:
- Alcohol abuse
- Specific phobia
The research also found mental health disorders typically first emerge in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood.
“The peak age of first onset was at 15 years old, with a median age of onset of 19 for men and 20 for women,” Professor McGrath said. “This lends weight to the need to invest in basic neuroscience to understand why these disorders develop.”
Professor Kessler said investment was also needed in mental health services with a particular focus on young people.
“Services need to be able to detect and treat common mental disorders promptly, and be optimized to suit patients in these critical parts of their lives,” Professor Kessler 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.”
The researchers said the outcomes provide valuable insights into the frequency and timing of mental disorder onset based on many different populations.
Reference: “Age of onset and cumulative risk of mental disorders: a cross-national analysis of population surveys from 29 countries” by John J McGrath, Ali Al-Hamzawi, Jordi Alonso, Yasmin Altwaijri, Laura H Andrade, Evelyn J Bromet, Ronny Bruffaerts, José Miguel Caldas de Almeida, Stephanie Chardoul, Wai Tat Chiu, Louisa Degenhardt, Olga V Demler, Finola Ferry, Oye Gureje, Josep Maria Haro, Elie G Karam, Georges Karam, Salma M Khaled, Viviane Kovess-Masfety, Marta Magno, Maria Elena Medina-Mora, Jacek Moskalewicz, Fernando Navarro-Mateu, Daisuke Nishi, Oleguer Plana-Ripoll, José Posada-Villa, Charlene Rapsey, Nancy A Sampson, Juan Carlos Stagnaro, Dan J Stein, Margreet ten Have, Yolanda Torres, Cristian Vladescu, Peter W Woodruff, Zahari Zarkov, Ronald C Kessler, Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, Ali Al-Hamzawi, Jordi Alonso, Yasmin A. Altwaijri, Laura Helena Andrade, Lukoye Atwoli, Corina Benjet, Evelyn J. Bromet, Ronny Bruffaerts, Brendan Bunting, José Miguel Caldas-de-Almeida, Graça Cardoso, Stephanie Chardoul, Alfredo H. Cía, Louisa Degenhardt, Giovanni De Girolamo, Oye Gureje, Josep Maria Haro, Meredith G. Harris, Hristo Hinkov, Chi-yi Hu, Peter De Jonge, Aimee N. Karam, Elie G. Karam, Georges Karam, Alan E. Kazdin, Norito Kawakami, Ronald C. Kessler, Andrzej Kiejna, Viviane Kovess-Masfety, John J. McGrath, Maria Elena Medina-Mora, Jacek Moskalewicz, Fernando Navarro-Mateu, Daisuke Nishi, Marina Piazza, José Posada-Villa, Kate M. Scott, Juan Carlos Stagnaro, Dan J. Stein, Margreet Ten Have, Yolanda Torres, Maria Carmen Viana, Daniel V. Vigo, Cristian Vladescu, David R. Williams, Peter Woodruff, Bogdan Wojtyniak, Miguel Xavier and Alan M. Zaslavsky, 30 July 2023, The Lancet Psychiatry.