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The global burden of mental disorder 

The global burden of mental disorder
The global burden of mental disorder
Oxford Textbook of Community Mental Health

Martin Prince


The World Health Organization’s global burden of disease (GBD) estimates provide evidence on the relative impact of health problems worldwide (Murray and Lopez, 1996; World Health Organization, 2006). Patterns of morbidity seem to be globalizing with non-communicable diseases rapidly becoming the dominant causes of ill health in all developing regions except Sub-Saharan Africa. Within this wider health transition, the GBD report showed for the first time the true scale of the contribution of mental disorders, this revelation attributed to the use of the disability-adjusted life year (DALY), the sum of years lived with disability (YLD), and years of life lost (YLL) as a single integrated measure of disease burden. Neuropsychiatric conditions (comprising, in descending order of DALY contribution: mental disorders, substance and alcohol use disorders, other neuropsychiatric disorders, dementia, mental retardation, migraine, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis) account for 14 % of all DALYs and 28 % of all DALYs attributed to non-communicable disease (Murray and Lopez, 1996; World Health Organization, 2006). They are the chief contributor to burden among the non-communicable diseases, more than either cardiovascular disease (22 % of non-communicable disease DALYs) or cancer (11 %). Proportionately, mental disorders account for just 9 % of the burden in low-income countries, compared with 18 % in middle-income and 27 % in high-income countries. This is because the burden of communicable, perinatal, and maternal conditions remains high in many low- and low–middle-income countries, swelling the denominator. However, the absolute burden of mental disorder as indicated by per capita DALYs does not vary much between world regions.

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