1 in 7 People in India Suffer From Mental Illness: Lancet

197 million people suffer from mental illness across India, with depression & anxiety disorders topping the list.

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Mind It
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197 million Indians suffer from mental illness in India.
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In 2017, 197.3 million Indians, that's 14.3% of the total population were suffering from various mental disorders. Of these, 45.7 million had depression and 44.9 million had anxiety disorders, according to a new study published in the Lancet Psychiatry.

This is the first comprehensive estimate of disease burden due to mental disorders and their trends in every state of India from 1990 and was undertaken by India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative.

The study highlights how deep mental health issues are in a country the size of India. The contribution of mental disorders to the total disease burden has doubled between 1990 and 2017.

Professor Rajesh Sagar from All India Institute of Medica Sciences (AIIMS) and lead author of the paper told FIT, “There is no health without mental health. We finally have evidence-based data that points to the need for the delivery of mental health services given state-wise and access to those services.”

Dr Atreyi Ganguli, NPO, WHO India added that, “It is important to look at stigma while creating mental health policies.”

Access to mental health services comes under the Mental HealthCare Act, 2017, and Prof Sagar adds that the challenge now lies in implementation and the identification of barriers.

The social determinants of mental health need to be looked at holistically. For example, Prof Sagar says that, “women often don’t have access to these services, or not as much attention is given to them. And if untreated, the risk of depression and even suicide is higher in women.”

Mental Health Crisis Across States

The mental health disorders highlighted included depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, idiopathic developmental intellectual disability, conduct disorders, and autism.

Main highlights of the survey:

  • The prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders is relatively higher in the southern states and in females.
  • The prevalence of depression is highest in older adults, which has significant implications for the ageing population.
  • The prevalence of childhood onset mental disorders such as idiopathic developmental intellectual disability, conduct disorders, and autism is higher in the northern states but is decreasing across India.
  • The contribution of mental disorders to the total disease burden in India in terms of DALYs increased from 2.5% in 1990 to 4.7% in 2017.
  • Depression contributed 33.8% of all mental disorder DALYs in India in 2017, followed by anxiety disorders (19.0%), idiopathic developmental intellectual disability (10.8%), and schizophrenia (9.8%).
  • There was a significant association between the prevalence of depression and suicide death rate at the state level, with this association slightly stronger in females than in males.

Highlighting the sheer scale of mental health crisis facing India and the task in front of policy makers, Dr Vinod Paul, Member, NITI Ayog had this to say,

“This research paper reports that a large proportion of India’s population is impacted by mental health issues and systematically highlights the variations between the states, which can guide efforts for more specific health services planning for mental health in each state. Policies and initiatives under Ayushman Bharat including the Health and Wellness Centers and the health insurance coverage are crucial in reducing the adverse impact of mental disorders at the population level across India.”

He laid emphasis on community-level interventions that state governments should focus on.

Prof Balram Bhargav, Director General, ICMR, added, "The insights provided by this study are important for titrating strategies for mental health improvement in each state. Given the significant contribution of mental disorders to the disease burden in India, further research should continue to track the changing trends of mental disorders in different parts of the country."

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