How Common is Mental Distress?For many years now stigma has been a big problem for individuals who have a mental illness. Stereotypes and negativity surrounding poor mental health has unfortunately meant that many who are suffering are left feeling like they are on the only one. Though there is still a long way to go before misconceptions about mental health are overcome completely, attitudes are beginning to change as more and more people are realising that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, and they are certainly not alone.
In this section you will find statistics and information about the prevalence of mental health problems in Britain, along with details of the most common forms of mental distress and their symptoms.
The prevalence of mental health disorders in BritainMental health disorders are actually extremely common in Britain, with the Office for National Statistics estimating that one in six adults will have a 'significant' mental health problem each year with between 8 and 12 per cent experiencing depression annually1.
Further to this, an additional study has estimated that approximately 300 individuals out of every 1000 in Britain will experience mental health problems each year. Of these, 230 will seek help and advice from their GP, 102 will be diagnosed with a mental health problem, 24 will be referred for specialist psychiatric services and 6 will become inpatients in psychiatric hospitals2.
What is the most common form of mental distress?According to figures from the ONS 2000 survey investigating psychiatric morbidity among adults in Great Britain, mixed anxiety and depression has remained the most common form of mental distress for a seven year period1. Between 1993 and 2000 the number of affected adults in Britain rose by 1.4 per cent from 7.8 per cent in 1993 to 9.2 per cent in 2000.
Similarly to that of mixed anxiety and depression, many other forms of mental distress have also seen an increase during this period. The second most prevalent form being generalised anxiety, which rose from 4.6 per cent in 1993 to 4.7 per cent in 2000.
What is the least common form of mental distress?In contrast, the two least common forms, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder respectively are the two types of distress which have seen a decrease in the amount of sufferers. Back in 1993 obsessive compulsive disorder affected around 1.7 per cent of the adult population, a figure which decreased by 0.5 per cent to 0.7 per cent in 2000.
Panic disorder also saw reduced figures, dropping from 1 per cent in 1993 to 0.7 per cent in 2000, which suggests that whilst the awareness and treatment of certain disorders such as these is on the increase, others are becoming more widespread.
Prevalence of mental health problems in individuals aged between 16 to 64 yearsAll figures are percentages
|Diagnosis and rate|
|Mixed anxiety and depression||10.1||11.2||5.5||7.2||7.8||9.2|
|Generalised anxiety disorder||5.3||4.8||4.0||4.6||4.6||4.7|
|Obsessive compulsive disorder||2.1||1.5||1.2||1.0||1.7||1.2|
|Any neurotic disorder||19.9||20.2||12.6||14.4||16.3||17.3|
What are the most common symptoms of mental distress?Any form of mental distress is accompanied by a set of symptoms which will differ from person to person. However, the Office for National Statistics has found that there are certain symptoms which are more prevalent than others.
According to the survey results, sleep problems and fatigue are the symptoms which are most often reported, with 29 per cent of all adults reporting some sleep problems in 2000 and 28 per cent of all adults reporting fatigue as a symptom in the same year1. Interestingly the prevalence of both symptoms has increased between 1993 and 2000 along with the majority of the other symptoms which have either increased or remained the same with the exception of anxiety, somatic symptoms, worry about physical health, obsessions, compulsions and panic, all of which have decreased.
The table also shows that all symptoms are more prevalent among women than they are in men, which perhaps reflects the fact that men are less likely to come forward and seek help for a mental health condition.
Prevalence of neurotic symptoms - by gender (people aged between 16 to 64 years)All figures are percentages
|Diagnosis and rate|
|Concentration and forgetfulness||10||11||6||9||8||10|
|Worry about physical health||5||7||4||7||5||7|