The world’s biggest mental health problem

The world’s biggest mental health problem

The early years of the 21st century have witnessed a worldwide epidemic of poor mental health and related illnesses. But while depression is the condition most will associate with mental health issues, and the leading cause of disability worldwide, it is not the number one mental health concern people face.


That unwanted accolade goes to anxiety.


An estimated 275 million people suffer from anxiety disorders. That’s around 4% of the global population, with a spread of between 2.5% and 6.5% of population per country. Around 62% of those suffering from anxiety are female (170 million), compared with 105 million male sufferers.


Anxiety disorders can follow different courses, but the most commonly experienced symptoms include:

  • apprehension – worrying about future misfortunes, feeling on edge, having difficulty concentrating
  • motor tension – restlessness and fidgeting, tension headaches, trembling, inability to relax
  • autonomic overactivity – lightheadedness, sweating, abnormally high heart-rate (tachycardia) or abnormally rapid breathing (tachypnoea), pain in the upper abdomen (epigastric discomfort), dizziness, and dry mouth

By 2030, the cost to the global economy of all mental health problems could amount to $16 trillion. How the world confronts mental health challenges, which are a blight on a growing number of people’s lives as well as an economic encumbrance, is on the agenda at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2019 in Davos.


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