As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought I’d share some figures on mental health in general. In my last article, I shared information about body image, and as such, this article will try to avoid overlapping with what I said there.
I’ll try to cover a broad range of the better-known mental health conditions and their figures, but I can’t cover them all. So if I’ve missed any you think I shouldn’t have, please feel free to add the missing details and figures in the comments section below.
Some General Mental Health Figures
46.4% of American (US) adults will experience a mental health condition during their lifetime, with 5% of US adults experiencing a mental health condition in any one year (Mental Health First Aid). With close to half of US adults experiencing a mental health condition at some point in their lives, it’s surprising that there’s still so much stigma around mental health problems.
The UK is little different, unfortunately. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 British adults will experience a mental health condition each year (Counselling Directory).
This figure is shared by the NHS who claim 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children suffer from a mental health condition. Thus, many of us either know someone who suffers from a mental health problem, is actively caring for someone who does, or is suffering ourselves.
The 1 in 4 adults figure was also reported by The Guardian, stating that this many adults will suffer from a mental health problem at some point each year. This equates to 16 million UK residents dealing with their mental health problems. This could be depression, psychosis, addiction, etc.
What’s worse, Mental Health First Aid USA reported that in the US, half of all mental health conditions begin by 14 years of age. Also, by the age of 24, 3/4 of mental health conditions would have manifested. A similar figure was reported by The Guardian, which stated that 3 in 4 mental health conditions start in childhood. That’s 75% of our mental health conditions starting before we reach the age of 18: 50% of which starts before we’re even 15.
Thus, a good childhood and young adult experience must be critical to maintaining good mental health throughout our lives. This makes for a good argument for teaching our children about mental health as early as possible. However, we obviously can’t forget that some of these mental health conditions would be caused by factors outside of anyone’s control.
Sadly, not everyone whose mental health is suffering seeks the support they need. Even though 1 in 4 adults will experience a mental health condition each year in the UK, only 230 out of 300 Brits will visit their GP to get help (Counselling Directory).
It also doesn’t help that young people can wait 10 years from their first appearance of symptoms to get effective treatment for their mental health conditions (The Guardian). Which is a long time for anyone to have to wait. I know I first became suicidal around the age of 8 (Suicidal Child), I didn’t start any kind of treatment until I was in my twenties, and now in my late thirties, I still haven’t had any effective treatment for my mental health conditions.
Often, nothing is done unless people reach a crisis point with their mental health. Hopefully, this will be avoided with better mental health education for all our young people, wherever they are in the world.
Mental Health: Suicide
One of the more extreme crisis points people can find themselves dealing with where they might try to reach out for support is when people are feeling suicidal. As such, let’s look at some of the figures for suicide so we can appreciate how much we collectively need to take mental health seriously.
Worldwide, it is estimated that 793,000 suicides took place in 2016 (WHO). That might not seem like much when you consider the global population. However, during the same year, according to Our World in Data, 87,432 died of battle-related deaths in conflicts involving 1+ states. A figure supported by Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), which reported a figure of 88,000 deaths. These sobering figures highlight the scale of deaths by suicide in 2016 alone.
In the UK and the Republic of Ireland collectively, the Samaritans (Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report 2018) reported that 6,213 suicides occurred in 2017. Furthermore, even though the UK is at a 30 year low for male suicide, men are still 3 times more likely to take their own lives than women.
Similarly, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) reported that in 2017 in Great Britain, 5,487 suicides occurred. Which would mean more than 15 people each day killed themselves. They also estimated that a figure of 10-25 times that number of attempted suicide.
Taking it back to our young adults (to further emphasise the importance of mental health education), the second leading cause of death for 15-29-year-olds is suicide (WHO). As a society, we clearly need to do more to protect the mental health of our children.
Furthermore, according to the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), 26.8% of young adults aged 16-24 have had suicidal thoughts. Which is the highest percentage of any age group.
Worldwide, the suicide rate might be 10.5 per 100,000, but by country, there can be tremendous variations to the global average. Looking at each country’s individual suicide rate, the figures show some interesting and surprising differences. The following information was collected from the Global Health Observatory (WHO) data.
|Country||Male Suicide Rate||Female Suicide Rate|
*figures are all per 100,000 – To see the figures for other countries, click here.
Two figures stood out for me when creating this table, the extremely high suicide rate of men in Russia, and how China is the only country where the female suicide rate was higher than that of males. I wonder what the cause of these two outlier statistics is. If you have any thoughts about this, let me know in the comments section below.
If the worldwide suicide figure is 793,000, then that equates to one person every 40 seconds killing themselves (WHO). When you think of it in that context, that rate of suicides really hits home. Just as important, that doesn’t even factor in the many people who try to kill themselves but don’t succeed.
It also doesn’t factor in the people who think about taking their own lives but don’t act upon said thoughts. As reported by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), among the general population of England, 20.6% of people have experienced suicidal thoughts at some point. This is a lot of people living in distress if thoughts of ending their lives have crossed their minds.
Additionally, according to the reporting of the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), in England, they found 34.6% of females and 19.3% of males aged 16-24 have had thoughts of suicide in their lifetime. If women are more likely to have thoughts of suicide, then how come suicide rates are highest amongst men? Maybe it balances out if you look at all the age groups together.
For the most part, depression changes how people function in their daily lives, although it can be present in different ways depending on the individual (National Alliance on Mental Illness – NAMI).
According to the WHO, depression is synonymous with a lack of interest/pleasure, sadness, low self-worth, guilt, disturbed appetite/sleep, tiredness, and poor concentration. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also added to that list: physical aches and pains, as well as a feeling of hopelessness.
The data the Our World in Data shared on their site indicated that between 2-6% of the world’s population currently suffers from depression. That would make depression pretty common, with more than 350 million people of all ages, ethnic groups, class, and communities suffering from depression (WHO).
This fits in with the information I also found at Mind which reported that 3.3% of English people suffer from depression.
However, an estimated 16 million American (US) adults or 7% of the population (National Alliance on Mental Illness–NAMI), had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. Although the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported a slightly different number of 17.3 million American (US) adults or 7.1% of the population. Either way, the number is larger than the estimated range for depression globally (WHO).
Furthermore, the EU reported the same 7% figure as well for their European population (EU). This means the EU also falls outside the WHO’s top range for the rate of depression. Which begs the question, why are Americans (US) and Europeans (EU) so depressed?
Although depression can affect anyone, wherever they are in the world, it does affect some groups more than others. Case in point, Both the WHO and Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) concluded that more women suffer from depression than men, which again makes you wonder how the male suicide rate is much higher than the female rate if more women suffer from depression than men.
This is partially (because it’s only evidence from one country) supported by the Health Survey for England 2014 which found that only 13% of men were diagnosed with depression in their lifetime, whereas 24% of women were. Maybe this could be somewhat explained by the fact that men are less likely to seek help, and thus won’t get a diagnosis of depression. If so, that would also help explain why the male suicide rate is greater than the female rate, if women have the highest rates of depression.
Obviously, there are probably many more variables at play here, but I’m unable to speculate about all of them in this post.
Bipolar Affective Disorder
As defined by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), bipolar disorder – or manic depression as it’s still sometimes known – is a mental health condition that causes dramatic shifts in a person’s mood. Which will also affect their energy and ability to think clearly. People with this mental health condition will experience low and high moods (depression and manic, hence the name manic depression). These ups and downs aren’t to be confused with the kind that typically affects most people, it’s essentially like comparing apples and oranges.
Classic bipolar comprises both manic and depressive episodes which are separated by periods of normal mood (WHO). Atypical bipolar on the other hand is characterised by mixed states, rapid cycling, and not fully recovering between episodes (Psychiatric Times).
Manic episodes consist of an elevated/irritable mood, over-activity, pressure of speech, a reduced need to sleep, and inflated self-esteem (WHO). Some bipolar sufferers may only suffer from manic episodes.
Worldwide, Our World in Data estimates that 46 million people suffered from bipolar disorder in 2017. However, the WHO estimated that around 60 million people worldwide suffer from this mental health condition in 2018.
The gender divide for this mental health condition is fairly even (National Alliance on Mental Illness–NAMI), with 52% being male and 48% being female (Our World in Data). This is particularly supported (again, just one country’s figures) by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) which found that in the US, the male frequency for bipolar disorder was 2.9% and for females was 2.8%.
Lastly, for bipolar disorder, the average age of onset is approximately 25. Although it can occur in teens, and even in childhood, albeit a lot rarer (National Alliance on Mental Illness – NAMI).
For the purpose of this post, I’ll be looking at anxiety in a more general term. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions, but each form of anxiety has its own unique set of symptoms. They go on to say that all of them have one thing in common: persistent and excessive fear/worry in situations that are not threatening.
Personally, I suffer from social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia, which if you’ve read my previous articles (The Weird Behaviour Of My Anxiety Disorders, The Unusual Link Between Drug-Induced Psychosis And My Anxieties and Mindfulness And Its Downsides: My Anxiety Disorders Vs Mindfulness) you’d be aware of how much such conditions can affect your quality of life.
A lot of the symptoms of anxiety disorders aren’t pleasant. For example, you can feel light-headed and/or dizzy (Mind); feel on edge and restless (Bank Workers Charity); have a sense of dread (NHS); frequent urination or diarrhoea (National Alliance on Mental Illness – NAMI); irregular heartbeat (Mind); sweating (Bank Workers Charity); sleep disturbances (Healthline); and headaches (Mental Health Foundation).
In the UK alone, in 2012, there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety disorders, according to Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). Mind puts the figure for England at 5.9% of the population who suffer from generalised anxiety, and 4.4% of the population for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD is a form of anxiety disorder).
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) claim that theirs an estimated 40 million (18%) American (US) adults living with an anxiety disorder. Whilst the National Insitute of Mental Health reports that approximately 32.1% of American (US) adults will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
The estimated figure of people worldwide living with an anxiety disorder was 264 million in 2015 (WHO). For 2017, the people at Our World in Data put the figure at 284 million people living with an anxiety disorder.
Thus, is it of any wonder that anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental health condition? Well, the numbers don’t lie. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has shown it’s the most common mental health condition in the US, with the Our World in Data and WHO showing it’s the biggest mental health condition worldwide.
However, much like depression, which can affect anyone from anywhere in the world, women are more likely to suffer from the disorder. The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) stated that women were twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with anxiety in England. A similar finding by the people at Our World in Data also found that 63% of anxiety sufferers were women worldwide. That equates to 179 million women and 105 million men.
It’s possible the difference in the prevalence of anxiety disorder in men could be down to the fact that men are less likely to seek help and thus go undiagnosed. But there could also be many other factors at play.
Unfortunately, children can also experience an anxiety disorder. In England, 7.2% of 5-19-year-olds have experience of suffering from an anxiety disorder, with 17-19 years olds being the most likely to suffer from one (13.1%; Mental Health First Aid). Whilst in the US, 8% of children and teens have an anxiety disorder (National Alliance on Mental Illness). It just goes to show how mental health conditions can affect any one of us, regardless of age.
First, I’d like to point out that the media do people suffering from schizophrenia a real misjustice. Sufferers are too often portrayed as dangerous on TV shows and in films, but also in sensational stories released by the press, even though most people with schizophrenia don’t engage in violent crimes (Mind).
The WHO have defined the characteristics of schizophrenia as being distortions in thinking, perception, language, emotions, sense of self, and behaviours. They can also experience hallucinations and delusions (Mind).
Thus, people suffering from schizophrenia can see or feel things that aren’t there, and they can fixate on false beliefs that have no evidence to support said beliefs.
The kind of cognitive issues and disorganized thinking that people with schizophrenia can suffer from can range from struggling to remember things to being so acutely affected by the disorder that they’re unaware they’re mentally unwell (National Alliance on Mental Illness – NAMI).
Sufferers, as often shown in TV shows and films, will be depicted mumbling to themselves, wandering aimlessly, and looking like a mess (WHO). But that isn’t an accurate depiction of a typical sufferer.
Interestingly, the voices people with conditions like schizophrenia hear are influenced by the culture you’re from. In the so-called developed nations, voices will more likely than not be negative. However, in some so-called developing nations, they can be positive, taking on the role of encouraging ancestors.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1.1% of adults in the US have schizophrenia. Whilst in the UK, at any given time, approximately 220,000 people are being treated for schizophrenia by the NHS (Living With Schizophrenia), with 1% of the population suffering from the mental health condition (Royal College of Psychiatrists).
It’s estimated that in 2017, 20 million people worldwide had schizophrenia (Our World in Data). Whereas the WHO puts this figure at 23 million people globally. Schizophrenia isn’t one of the common mental health conditions, and as a result, only affects up to 1% of people worldwide (SANE Australia).
However, there seems to be some debate about how this mental health condition affects men and women. Unlike depression and anxiety, where there is a very noticeable difference in the amount of sufferers split by sex, schizophrenia has people and organisations making different claims.
The WHO believes it’s more common in men (12 million) than women (9 million). However, the people at Our World in Data believe that men and women are equally affected by the mental health condition. They claim that it’s evenly split, 10 million each.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists also believes that the rates of male and female sufferers are equal. Whereas, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) believe that men are at a higher risk of developing schizophrenia in their lifetime.
However, it doesn’t really matter which gender sufferers from schizophrenia the most, all that matters is that people are suffering and they deserve treatment. Everyone deserves to live the best quality of life possible.
Much like I did with anxiety disorders, I’ll be taking an umbrella approach to personality disorders. Furthermore, for those who don’t know me yet, I’m a sufferer of a personality disorder: I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder.
The NHS has stated that an individual with a personality disorder feels, thinks, and behaves or relates to others differently from the average person. They also stated that symptoms will vary depending on the type of personality disorder the individual has. Thus, if a person has Borderline Personality Disorder they could have problems with controlling their behaviours and maintaining relationships. Whereas, if they have an antisocial personality disorder they will have problems with controlling their anger, be easily frustrated, and blame others for their own problems.
Because there are a lot of different personality disorders, that are expressed differently depending on the person, and because some people may never seek help and thus get a diagnosis, it’s hard to estimate the rate of personality disorder sufferers (Time-To-change).
But Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) has had a go and estimated that between 4-15% of English people meet the diagnostic criteria for a personality disorder. Although, just because you might meet the criteria, that doesn’t mean you actually have a personality disorder.
The 4-15% figure is partly based on the findings published by NHS Digital which reported a figure of 13.7% of people aged 16+ having a personality disorder.
The Mental Health Foundation has this figure at 5% for the UK, which would fall within the range set by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). This 5% figure is also shared by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
In the US, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated the prevalence of any personality disorder to be 9.1%, of which, 1.4% have borderline personality disorder: like me.
However, according to the American Psychiatric Association Publishing, this figure could be as big as 14.8% (30.8 million) of Americans (US). Or at least it was in 2001-2002.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
A lot of people will have occasional obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviours. However, someone with OCD will be so consumed by such thoughts and behaviours that it’ll impact their day-to-day lives (National Alliance on Mental Illness – NAMI).
OCD can be split into two main parts, obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are defined by unwelcome thoughts, urges, images, and worries/doubts, which can make the sufferer anxious (Mind). Compulsions, on the other hand, are repetitive behaviours or mental acts that the sufferer feels they need to carry out to alleviate anxious and unpleasant feelings (NHS).
Examples of obsessions include (National Alliance on Mental Illness – NAM):
- Thoughts about harming or having harmed someone.
- Doubts about having done something right, like turning off the stove or locking a door.
- Unpleasant sexual images.
Examples of compulsions include (National Alliance on Mental Illness – NAMI):
- Hand washing due to a fear of germs.
- Counting and recounting money because a person can’t be sure they added correctly.
- Checking to see if a door is locked or the stove is off.
According to BeyondOCD.org about 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children have OCD in the US, which equates to approximately 2.3% of the population. These figures were also reported by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
In the UK the number is lower, with OCD UK reporting a figure of 1.2% of the British population of all ages suffering from OCD. Like All mental health disorders, OCD doesn’t discriminate, affecting people from all ethnic and social backgrounds, and whichever gender definition you subscribe to.
A behaviour becomes addicted when the sufferer struggles to have control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful (NHS).
In 2016 it was estimated that 164 million people worldwide suffered from alcohol or drug dependence (Our World in Data). 20.2 million of that 164 million figure were American (US) adults suffering from substance dependence (NAMI).
Furthermore, it has also been stated that 107 million people worldwide are estimated to suffer from alcohol dependence, that is roughly 1.4% of the Earth’s population (Our World in Data). Of that 107 million people, 589,101 came from England (Alcohol Change UK).
The WHO reported in 2016 that more than 3 million people died worldwide as a result of alcohol dependence. That represents 1 in 20 deaths globally (5.3%).
As for drug dependence, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, worldwide there are an estimated 29 million people suffering from drug dependence. However, the WHO puts this figure at a slightly higher 31 million people worldwide.
Confusingly, the people at Our World in Data put the global figure for drug dependence at 71 million (0.9%) people for 2017. Which is more than the figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and WHO combined.
The reason I added addiction to this article is that 30-50% of people suffering from a severe mental health condition in England also have problems with substance abuse (Mental Health First Aid–MHFA).
A similar figure was found for the US, where 50.5% (10.2 million adults) of those with a substance dependence also suffered from another mental health condition (NAMI).
A slightly smaller figure was reported by American Addiction Centers, whereby in 2017, 8.5 million American adults suffered from both substance dependence and another mental health disorder.
Thus, addiction goes hand-in-hand with comorbid mental health problems, which causes the other can only really be answered at an individual level.
So that’s my article for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week. I hope you found it insightful. Let me know what you think about my post in the comments section below as well. If you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.