Mental health disorder to affect half the population by the age of 75

Mental disorders: Age of onset and cumulative risk across 29 countries.

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Mental health disorders have become a significant public health concern worldwide. The prevalence of mental health conditions has been steadily increasing over the years, raising concerns about the well-being of individuals across different age groups. This study aims to explore the projected prevalence of mental health disorders among the aging population, specifically focusing on individuals aged 75 and above.

Researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland and Harvard Medical School, led by Professor John McGrath and Professor Ronald Kessler, conducted a comprehensive study analyzing data from over 150,000 adults in 29 countries between 2001 and 2022.

The data was sourced from the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey initiative, involving the most extensive coordinated series of face-to-face interviews. Their findings reveal a significant prevalence of mental health disorders, indicating that 50% of the population is likely to develop at least one mental health disorder by age 75.

Lead author Professor McGrath said, “The most common were mood disorders such as major depression or anxiety. We also found the risk of certain mental disorders differed by sex.”

According to research, women’s three most common mental health disorders are depression, specific phobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). On the other hand, among men, the top three are alcohol abuse, depression, and specific phobia. The study also indicates that mental health disorders surface during childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.

Professor McGrath’s research revealed that the peak age for the first onset of mental health disorders is around 15 years old, with the median age of onset being 19 for men and 20 for women. This emphasizes the importance of investing in fundamental neuroscience to gain insights into the development of these disorders.

Additionally, Professor Kessler highlighted the need for increased investment in mental health services, mainly focusing on young people. Timely detection and treatment of common mental disorders are crucial during these critical stages of their lives. Optimized mental health services can provide adequate support to address the challenges faced by young individuals dealing with mental health issues.

The researchers emphasized that understanding the typical age of onset for mental health disorders allows for targeted public health interventions and resource allocation. This ensures that timely and suitable support is accessible to individuals at risk.

Furthermore, the study’s outcomes offer valuable insights into the frequency and timing of mental disorder onset across diverse populations, providing a broader understanding of the prevalence of these disorders.

In conclusion, the projected increase in mental health disorders among individuals aged 75 and above poses a considerable challenge for society. By recognizing these trends and understanding the contributing factors, we can take proactive measures to improve mental health services, reduce stigma, and foster a more supportive environment for older adults. Investing in research, early detection, and accessible mental health care can help mitigate the impact of these disorders on the aging population and ensure a better quality of life for our older citizens.

Journal Reference:

  1. John J McGrath, Ali Al-Hamzawi, et al., Age Age of onset and cumulative risk of mental disorders: a cross-national analysis of population surveys from 29 countries. The Lancet Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1016/S2215-0366(23)00193-1.