Scale of mental health problems debated

The primary health challenge in Europe today is that concerning mental disorders. This is one of the findings of new research from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology - established in 1987 - which discovered the majority of conditions of this type remain untreated.

Carried out across three years, the investigation - published in European Neuropsychopharmacology - looked at individuals in 30 countries and found 38.2 per cent of the European Union's population suffer from a mental disorder every year.

According to the report, these illnesses are to be found across all age groups and affect both the young and the elderly.

Anxiety disorders account for the most frequent instances at 14 per cent, with insomnia responsible for seven per cent and major depression making up 6.9 per cent.

Hans-Ulrich Wittchen, principal investigator and joint first author of the study, said: "We have to acknowledge that only early targeted treatment in the young will effectively prevent the risk of increasingly larger proportions of severely ill multimorbid patients in the future."

Professor Peter Kinderman from the University of Liverpool, who chairs the Society's Division of Clinical Psychology, says:

"This is an interesting study, but it raises more questions than it answers.

The 38.2 per cent figure sounds high, but when you look at the researchers' methodology you can understand how they arrived at it. They have included everything from neurological disorders like dementia and dementia to conditions like insomnia and called them all mental disorders.

While someone who suffers from insomina can and should be helped, I am not sure it it a good idea to lump such different conditions together in this way.

It is good that governments and citizens are reminded of the number of people who suffer from psychological, emotional and neurological problems. It's just that I am not convinced it is useful to give them all a single label like this."