Health & fitness

In conflict settings, mental disorders higher

Print edition : July 19, 2019

According to new prevalence estimates of mental disorders in conflict settings by the World Health Organisation, one in five people living in an area affected by conflict has depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and about 9 per cent of conflict-affected populations have a moderate to severe mental health condition. The analysis was published in a recent issue of “The Lancet”.

The figures for these mental health conditions in the general population stands at one in 14 people. Depression and anxiety appeared to increase with age in conflict settings, and depression was more common among women than men. The findings suggest that past studies underestimated the burden of mental health conditions in conflict-affected areas: 5 per cent at any one time in the new study compared with 3-4 per cent over a 12-month period in the 2005 estimates for severe mental health conditions, and 17 per cent at any one time in the new estimates compared with 15-20 per cent over a 12-month period in previous estimates for mild to moderate mental health conditions. Overall, the mean prevalence for mild, moderate and severe mental health conditions was 13 per cent, 4 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

The revised estimates used research from 129 studies and data from 39 countries published between 1980 and August 2017. Settings that had experienced conflict in the last 10 years were included. According to the paper, since there was limited data for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, estimates for these conditions were based on global estimates and did not take into account any increased risk of these conditions in conflict settings.

“In this study we used more stringent inclusion and exclusion criteria for the literature search, and advanced search strategies and statistical methods,” said the lead author of the study, Fiona Charlson of the University of Queensland, Australia.

In 2016, the study pointed out, the number of armed conflicts reached an all-time high, with 53 ongoing conflicts in 37 countries and 12 per cent of the world’s population living in an active conflict zone. Nearly 69 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced by violence and conflict, the highest number since the Second World War.

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