Summary: A comprehensive study found that one in two individuals globally will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime.
Analyzing data from over 150,000 adults across 29 countries, the researchers found that 50% of the population will develop at least one disorder by age 75, with mood disorders like depression and anxiety being most common.
The study highlighted different prevalence of mental disorders between genders and pointed out that mental health issues typically emerge during childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood.
The study analyzed the largest ever coordinated series of face-to-face interviews taken from the World Health Organisation’s World Mental Health Survey initiative.
The three most common mental health disorders among women are depression, specific phobia, and PTSD, while for men, they are alcohol abuse, depression, and specific phobia.
The research indicates that the median age of onset for mental health disorders is 19 for men and 20 for women.
Source: University of Queensland
A global study co-led by researchers from The University of Queensland and Harvard Medical School has found one in two people will develop a mental health disorder in their lifetime.
Professor John McGrath from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute, Professor Ronald Kessler from Harvard Medical School, and their colleagues from 27 other countries, analysed data from more than 150,000 adults across 29 countries between 2001 and 2022, taken from the largest ever coordinated series of face-to-face interviews – the World Health Organisation’s World Mental Health Survey initiative.
Lead author Professor McGrath said the results demonstrate the high prevalence of mental health disorders, with 50 per cent of the population developing at least one disorder by the age of 75.
“The most common were mood disorders such as major depression or anxiety,” Professor McGrath said.
“We also found the risk of certain mental disorders differed by sex.”
The 3 most common mental health disorders among women:
Specific phobia (a disabling anxiety that interferes with daily life)
Post-traumatic stress (PTSD)
The 3 most common mental health disorders among men:
The research also found mental health disorders typically first emerge in childhood, adolescence or young adulthood.
“The peak age of first onset was at 15 years old, with a median age of onset of 19 for men and 20 for women,” Professor McGrath said.
“This lends weight to the need to invest in basic neuroscience to understand why these disorders develop.”
Professor Kessler said investment was also needed in mental health services with a particular focus on young people.
“Services need to be able to detect and treat common mental disorders promptly, and be optimised to suit patients in these critical parts of their lives,” Professor Kessler said.
“By understanding the age at which these disorders commonly arise, we can tailor public health interventions and allocate resources to ensure that appropriate and timely support is available to individuals at risk.”
The researchers said the outcomes provide valuable insights into the frequency and timing of mental disorder onset based on many different populations.
Age of onset and cumulative risk of mental disorders: a cross-national analysis of population surveys from 29 countries
Information on the frequency and timing of mental disorder onsets across the lifespan is of fundamental importance for public health planning. Broad, cross-national estimates of this information from coordinated general population surveys were last updated in 2007. We aimed to provide updated and improved estimates of age-of-onset distributions, lifetime prevalence, and morbid risk.
In this cross-national analysis, we analysed data from respondents aged 18 years or older to the World Mental Health surveys, a coordinated series of cross-sectional, face-to-face community epidemiological surveys administered between 2001 and 2022. In the surveys, the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview, a fully structured psychiatric diagnostic interview, was used to assess age of onset, lifetime prevalence, and morbid risk of 13 DSM-IV mental disorders until age 75 years across surveys by sex. We did not assess ethnicity. The surveys were geographically clustered and weighted to adjust for selection probability, and standard errors of incidence rates and cumulative incidence curves were calculated using the jackknife repeated replications simulation method, taking weighting and geographical clustering of data into account.
We included 156 331 respondents from 32 surveys in 29 countries, including 12 low-income and middle-income countries and 17 high-income countries, and including 85 308 (54·5%) female respondents and 71 023 (45·4%) male respondents. The lifetime prevalence of any mental disorder was 28·6% (95% CI 27·9–29·2) for male respondents and 29·8% (29·2–30·3) for female respondents. Morbid risk of any mental disorder by age 75 years was 46·4% (44·9–47·8) for male respondents and 53·1% (51·9–54·3) for female respondents. Conditional probabilities of first onset peaked at approximately age 15 years, with a median age of onset of 19 years (IQR 14–32) for male respondents and 20 years (12–36) for female respondents. The two most prevalent disorders were alcohol use disorder and major depressive disorder for male respondents and major depressive disorder and specific phobia for female respondents.
By age 75 years, approximately half the population can expect to develop one or more of the 13 mental disorders considered in this Article. These disorders typically first emerge in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood. Services should have the capacity to detect and treat common mental disorders promptly and to optimise care that suits people at these crucial parts of the life course.