Every year from mental and neurological disorders, such as depression, anxiety and insomnia, are suffering 165 million Europeans, or 38% of the population on the continent.
Only one third of the patients undergo treatment or take the medications they need. Mental disorders are the cause of huge economic and social losses, measured in hundreds of millions of euros because of the inability of patients to perform their duties.
Dementia is becoming one of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century, scientists noted. At the same time some of the big pharmaceutical companies support the investment of research on how the brain works and how it affects our behavior.
Professor Dr. Hans-Ulrich Wittchen, director of the Institute for Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy at the University of Dresden, Germany, and lead author of the study, said that the huge gap that occurs in the treatment of these diseases must be filled.
Wittchen conducted a 3-year study involving 30 European countries, including 27 EU countries plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway, with a total population of 514 million people. Comparison between the distribution of diseases in other parts of the world was not possible because different parameters are used. Researchers examined about 100 diseases involving all major brain disorders – from anxiety and depression to addiction and schizophrenia, and neurological conditions including epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
Mental disorders are a major cause of mortality, disability and economic burden worldwide. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020 depression will be second cause for mortality in the world. The largest European study of brain disorders, published in 2005, which covers more than 301 million people, found that 27% of European population suffers from mental illness.
Researchers believe it is essential to recognize the powerful impact of mental illness and detection methods for early diagnosis of patients, most likely via population screening.
Wittchen notes that most psychiatric disorders occur early but play significant role only later in lifetime. Therefore, in order to reduce the risk or prevent these diseases, it is need the treatment to be directed towards young people. The sooner patients get help, the greater is their chance to change the progress of the disease.