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14 percent of global disease burden due to mental disorders

September 03, 2007

An estimated 14% of the global burden of disease is due to neuropsychiatric disorders (NPDs). NPDs are the most important contributors among the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) - more than heart disease, stroke and cancer - mainly due to the chronically disabling nature of depression, alcohol- and substance-use disorders, and psychoses. However, their true burden is likely to have been underestimated because of inadequate appreciation of the connection between mental disorders and other health conditions.

In this first of a series of six reviews, titled "No health without mental health", Professor Martin Prince, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK and colleagues, provide evidence that mental illnesses increase the risk for developing many physical illnesses. They are also common accompaniments of other NCDs and communicable diseases, complicate their treatment, and are typically associated with worse outcomes, including increased mortality. More research is needed into these links; particularly on the potential for mental health interventions to improve physical health outcomes. Relatively little of this type of research has been carried out in low and middle income countries, where 80% of all deaths from NCDs and 99% of all deaths from HIV/ AIDS occur, and where mental healthcare budgets are tiny with respect to the burden of mental illness.

The links between mental health and heart problems, stroke and diabetes, HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria , maternal and child health and accidents and injuries are all explored in depth, with the authors concluding that: "Mental health awareness needs to be integrated into all elements of health and social policy, health-system planning, and delivery of primary and secondary general health care."


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