Common Mental Illnesses

Common Mental Illnesses

The most common mental illnesses are anxiety and depression.

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At any given time common mental health disorders can be found in around one in six people in the community, and around half of the significant symptoms that would warrant intervention from healthcare professionals. Most have non-specific mixed anxiety and depressive symptoms, but a proportion has more specific depressive disorder or anxiety disorders including panic disorder, phobias, OCD, or PTSD.

The location, time, and duration of the survey are not the only factors to influence prevalence rates. Several demographic and socioeconomic factors are associated with a higher risk of disorders, including gender, age, marital status, ethnicity, and socioeconomic deprivation. These will be discussed below.

Depression and anxiety disorders tend to have a higher prevalence in women. Prevalence rates of depression have consistently been found to be between 1.5 and 2.5 times higher in women than men. In the ONS survey, women were more likely than men to have a disorder (19.7 and 12.5%, respectively), with rates significantly higher for women across all categories of disorder except for panic disorder and OCD. The greatest difference between genders was among South Asian adults where the age-standardized rate among women (34.3% of South Asian women) was three times that of men (10.3% of South Asian men). Reasons cited in the 2007 ONS survey include the impact of having children, exposure to domestic or sexual violence, adverse experiences in childhood, and women's relative poverty.

In the 2007 ONS survey rates varied by age, with those aged 75 years and over least likely to have a disorder (6.3% of men and 12.2% of women). In women, the rate peaked among 45- to 54-year-olds of whom 25% met the criteria for at least one disorder. Among men, the rate was highest in 25- to 54-year-olds (14.6% of 25- to 34-year-olds, 15.0% of 35- to 44-year-olds, and 14.5% of 45- to 54-year-olds).

Women across all marital-status categories were more likely than their male counterparts to have disorders in the 2007 ONS survey, except for divorced people in whom the prevalence for men and women was very similar (26.6% for women and 27.7% for men). Among men, those currently divorced had the greatest likelihood of having a disorder, but variation by other marital status categories was less pronounced. For women, the rate of disorder was high for divorced women but even higher for separated women (33.0%). Men and women who were married or widowed had the lowest observed rates of disorder (10.1% of married men and 16.3% of married women; 10.4% widowed men and 17.4% widowed women).

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