One third of global mental illness, substance abuse disorders in India, China combined

India accounted for 15% of the global mental, neurological and substance use disorder burden and China 17%


Global Burden of Disease report, released by the World Health Organisation, drew figures from national census data, household surveys, China’s Disease Surveillance Points system and the Chinese Death Registration system.
Global Burden of Disease report, released by the World Health Organisation, drew figures from national census data, household surveys, China’s Disease Surveillance Points system and the Chinese Death Registration system.

New Delhi: Nearly one-third of the global burden of mental illness and substance abuse disorders is borne by India and China combined, according to three papers published in the medical journal The Lancet on Wednesday.

This is higher than such cases in all developed countries put together.

India accounted for 15% of the global mental, neurological and substance use disorder burden and China 17%. Developing countries as a whole accounted for three-fourths of the global burden of mental illnesses.

The researchers disaggregated data from Global Burden of Disease (GBD) report of 2013 to analyse burden estimates specifically for China and India.

GBD, released by the World Health Organisation, drew figures from national census data, household surveys, China’s Disease Surveillance Points system and the Chinese Death Registration system.

Common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders account for a greater proportion of the burden. Treatment of severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder consume the vast majority of mental health resources.

In both countries, substance use disorders were more common among men than women—the burden of drug dependence disorders was more than twice as high for men as women, and the burden of alcohol use disorders was nearly seven times higher for men as women.

Dementia is a growing problem in both countries. From 2015 to 2025, it is estimated that the number of healthy years lost due to dementia will increase by 82% in India (from 1.7 million to 3.2 million) and by 56% in China (from 3.5 million to 5.4 million).

In India, only one in 10 people, or 10%, with mental disorders are estimated to receive evidence-based interventions. In China, the treatment-seeking rate is less than 6% for common mental disorders (i.e., mood and anxiety disorders), substance use disorders, dementia, and epilepsy.

In 2013, mental, neurological, and substance use disorders accounted for 36 million healthy days lost in China (10% of all disease burden) and 31 million in India (6% of all disease burden).

The papers found that community engagement and collaboration with traditional and alternative medicine practitioners is key to bridge the treatment gap.

Both India and China have relatively few trained mental health professionals and poor access to mental health services (especially in rural areas), besides the social stigma attached to mental disorders, which may prevent people from accessing medical.

At the same time, both countries have large numbers of traditional and alternative practitioners—such as yoga practitioners in India and traditional medicine practitioners in China—who often provide services to persons with mental health problems.

It is common in these countries to use alternative medicine. The authors added that more research is needed to fully understand the effectiveness and potential risks of these therapies.

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