India, China account for a third of the mentally-ill globally

19 May 2016

China and India together accounted for a third of global burden of mental illness, but only a tiny fraction of the patients received medical help, a recent study revealed.

The study is one of the three papers marking  the launch of the China-India Mental Health Alliance, a long-term project aimed at bringing together experts from China and India to look at the current status of mental health and mental health services in both countries.

The research found that the two most populous nations had more number of people coping with mental, neurological and substance use problems than all high-income countries combined.

According to the Alliance of Global Burden of Disease data the burden of mental illness was set to increase more rapidly in India than in China over the next 10 years.

Both counties had more men with substance use disorders than women, and the burden of drug dependence disorders was more than twice as high for men as women. The burden of alcohol use disorders was nearly seven times higher for men as compared to women.

In both countries the incidence of dementia was rising and between 2015 to 2025, it is estimated that the number of healthy years lost due to dementia would increase by 82 per cent in India (from 1.7 million to 3.2 million) and by 56 per cent in China (from 3.5 million to 5.4 million).

The study has been published in The Lancet and The Lancet Psychiatry.

According to lead author of the study, Vikram Patel, who is director Public Health Foundation of India and joint director, Centre for Global Mental Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, while India had progressive policies regarding mental health care, the actual implementation of comprehensive community oriented services was patchy and the treatment gaps, especially in rural areas, were very large.

Dr Rahul Shidhaye of the foundation said, overall population growth in India explained a greater proportion of the increase in mental, neurological, and substance use disorder burden from 1990 to 2013 (44 per cent) than in China (20 per cent)," PTI reported.

However, as we were unable to incorporate changes in prevalence of mental, neurological, and substance use disorders between 1990 and 2013 in our projections through to 2025, the final projections are underestimation," he said.

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