9.8 million children and adolescents need active intervention

1 in every 20 people suffer from depression urban Indian poor suffer the most
news Mental Health Tuesday, October 25, 2016 - 17:12

Depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse are so common in India that one in 10 Indians are affected by either one of these issues, says a study done by National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru.

The survey done under the National Mental Health Survey was submitted to the Union Health Ministry on World Mental Health Day- October 10.

Studying 39532 individuals across 12 Indian states- Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh , Assam and Manipur-  the surveyors have come out with shocking data on mental disorders and substance abuse disorders – like tobacco, alcohol and drugs.

While the study focused primarily on adults (18+),  teenagers in four states were also surveyed. One in three people surveyed was a young adult (18-29). The sample included 52% of women.

9.8 million children and adolescents need active intervention

One of the most startling findings was the prevalence of mental disorders in children. It was found that the prevalence of mental disorders was nearly twice in children living in urban metros- that is 13.5 % as compared to rural areas- 6.9%.

Adolescents have been found to be vulnerable, with nearly 9.8 million Indians between 13 and 17 years in need of active intervention.

Mental disorders, urban poor suffer the most

Among morbid disorders, depression was common amongst adults of all age groups. Depression is in fact so common that the survey says that one in 20 people in India suffered from it. It was especially high in females, in people of the age-group of 40-49 years and among those residing in urban metros.

The study revealed that other mental disorders was higher among males than females. In fact the report said that with productive age groups (30-49 years) being affected the most, it was taking a toll on work productivity, earning potential, and quality of life.

Three out of four persons with a severe mental disorder experience significant disability in work, social and family life.

Finding a link between urban poverty and mental disorders, the survey says that low levels of education and working status are closely interlinked to mental disorders which in turn contribute to impoverishment. Data from the NMHS reveals that mental disorders were significantly higher in households with lesser income, poor education and limited employment. 

Substance abuse

Substance abuse, which includes abuse of alcohol and tobacco, was prevalent among middle-aged (40 to 59 years) individuals. Over 35% males and close to 25 % of the people in rural areas (24.12 per cent) were dependent on either alcohol or tobacco. The prevalence of illicit drug was more in urban areas.

The prevalence of tobacco use disorder was found to be 20.9 % and nearly 4.6 % of the population was found suffering from alcohol use disorder both in terms of abuse and dependence.

Severe mental disorders

Over 1.9 % of the population was affected by severe mental disorders at some point in their life. Men and those living in urban areas suffered from severe mental disorders like schizophrenia, other non-affective psychoses and bipolar affective disorder. 1 in 100 people living urban areas had suicidal tendencies too.

Understanding mental disorder and treatment gap

An alarming fact that the survey highlights is the absence of treatment or the unwillingness to seek medical help for mental disorders. 

"The treatment gap ranges from 28% to 83% for mental disorders and 86% for alcohol use disorders. Except for epilepsy all the other mental disorders reported a treatment gap of more than 60% with the highest treatment gap being for alcohol use disorders."

This could be due to poor awareness among people and limited resources according to the survey.  Mental disorders are associated with a considerable amount of stigma in Indian society, leading to neglect and marginalisation thus, this has resulted in weaker health systems, fragmented and uncoordinated with deficiencies in all components at the state level.


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