New Delhi: An estimated one in seven Indians suffered from mental disorders of varying severity in 2017 with depression and anxiety being the commonest, according to a study.
The first comprehensive estimates of disease burden due to mental disorders and their trends in every state of India from 1990 published in the Lancet Psychiatry by the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative show that the contribution of mental disorders to the total disease burden has doubled between 1990 and 2017.
These include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, idiopathic developmental intellectual disability, conduct disorders, and autism.
In 2017, 197 million Indians were suffering from mental disorders, of whom 46 million had depression and 45 million anxiety disorders, according to the study whose findings were released on Monday.
Depression and anxiety disorders are the commonest mental disorders and their prevalence is increasing across India and is relatively higher in the southern states and in women.
The prevalence of depression is the highest in older adults, which has significant implications for the aging population of India. Depression is also associated with suicide deaths in India, the study stated.
The prevalence of childhood onset mental disorders such as idiopathic developmental intellectual disability, conduct disorders, and autism was found to be higher in the northern states but is decreasing across India.
The contribution of mental disorders to the total disease burden has doubled in India from 1990 to 2017, indicating the need for implementing effective strategies to control this increasing burden.
The state-specific findings described in this paper highlight the extent of the effort needed in each state to address mental health which could serve as a reference for policy makers to plan approaches for reducing the growing burden of mental disorders in a systematic way.
The trends over about three decades reported in this research paper utilized all available data sources from India, which enables more robust estimates than the estimates based on individual data sources in isolation.
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, Professor Vinod Paul, Member, NITI Aayog said on the release of the findings.
According to professor Balram Bhargav, Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the findings of this research demonstrate important differences between the states — the prevalence of adult mental disorders is higher in the southern states and that of childhood onset mental disorders is higher in the northern states.
“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,” he said.
Prof Lalit Dandona, Director of the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative, said the high rate of depression among the older adults reported in this study is of concern which needs attention, and the significant association of suicide with depression emphasises the need to identify and deal with depression through wider efforts in the community and in the health system.
“Mental illnesses contribute significantly to the burden of disease in India as reported by this study. There is an urgent need to strengthen mental health services, integrate these with general healthcare, and remove barriers such as stigma and access to treatment.
“It is time to act at all levels with all stakeholders to bring mental health at the forefront to reduce the burden. An interesting finding revealed by this study is the slower pace of improvement in the burden of childhood mental disorders such as developmental intellectual disability and conduct disorder in the less developed states of the country which should be examined,” Professor Rajesh Sagar of AIIMS and the lead author of the paper said.