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Only 1 out of 20 Indians with mental illness gets treatment

Women had a relatively higher prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders, as compared to men.

india Updated: Apr 15, 2017 07:14 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Anxiety
Women had a relatively higher prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders, as compared to men.

Only one in 20 persons with anxiety, mood disorders and addictions get treated in India, shows a pan-India study of close to 25,000 people published in the current issue of Indian Journal of Psychiatry.

The study, which tracked the prevalence and treatment of anxiety, mood disorders and substance abuse in 24,371 people above 18 years across 11 sites in India, was done by mental health experts from major hospitals including AllMS Delhi, JIPMER Puducherry, AFMC Pune, PGIMER Chandigarh and NIMHANS, Bengaluru, among others.

The study showed that though 5.52% of the persons surveyed had common mental disorders - anxiety disorders (3.41%), mood disorders (1.44%), and substance use disorders (1.18%), only 5.09% of them had been treated for them over the past one year.

“We always knew there was an enormous treatment gap as far as mental illnesses was concerned, but this study proved the gap is bigger than we expected. It is about 95%, with only 5 out of 100 people with common mental disorders receiving treatment,” said Dr Rajesh Sagar, professor, department of psychiatry, AIIMS. Dr Sagar is part of the research team.

Women had a relatively higher prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders, as compared to men. Women were twice more likely than men to have anxiety disorders (4.42% women, 2.44% men), and 1.6 times (1.79% women, 1.11% men) more likely to have mood disorders. Substance abuse was more common among men (2.23% men, 0.08% women).

“More females are affected but more men get treated. The reasons are many, but most obvious is that women’s health concerns don’t get the same priority as men,” said Dr Sagar.

The fact that India doesn’t have enough psychiatrists and clinical psychologists – who are trained to diagnose and prescribe medicines – adds to under-treatment. India has about 0.3% trained psychiatrists against the 1% requirement and 0.7% clinical psychologists, when the need is for at least 1.5%.

“This is by far the most systematically conducted survey for mental disorders, but the numbers could still be higher,” he said.