National Alliance on Mental Illness
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The Global Burden Of Disease Stresses The Global Burden Of Mental Illness

The World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Harvard School of Public Health examined the impact of numerous diseases on the loss of years of healthy life. The researchers involved in this study developed a new approach for assessing health status by quantifying the number of deaths, the impact of premature deaths, and the disability on a population into an overall "burden of disease." This new approach has enabled researchers to provide a comprehensive view of the world's current and future health needs.

The GBD stresses the substantial underestimation of the burdens of mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and alcohol abuse.

"The burdens of mental illnesses, such as depression, alcohol dependence and schizophrenia, have been seriously underestimated by traditional approaches that take account only of deaths and not disability."

"While psychiatric conditions are responsible for little more than one percent of deaths, they account for almost 11 percent of disease burden worldwide."

The projections for total disease burden in the year 2020 predict that depression will be the second leading cause of disease burden and that psychiatric and neurological conditions could increase their share of total burden from 10.5 percent to 15 percent. The Global Burden of Disease report has provided a new view of current and future health needs, which will effect the policy makers decisions about healthcare distribution and practice. The study emphasized the contribution of mental illness to disability and disease burden illustrating that future health practices must better address mental health issues.

Key findings regarding mental illness:

  • the burden of psychiatric conditions has been heavily underestimated
  • four of the top ten causes of disability in the world are mental illnesses (#1 - unipolar major depression, #6 - bipolar disorder, #9 - schizophrenia, #10 - obsessive-compulsive disorder)
  • unipolar depression was responsible for more than one in every ten years of life lived with a disability worldwide in 1990.
  • Psychiatric and neurological conditions accounted for 28 percent of all years of life lived with a disability worldwide in 1990.
  • among women in developed countries aged 15-44, the leading causes of disease burden are: unipolar major depression, schizophrenia, road traffic accidents, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • across all age groups worldwide, depression will produce the second largest disease burden in the year 2020