Europe’s Largest Health Challenge This Century

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A new study, landmark in nature, paints a stark picture across the ocean of Europe’s mental and neurological health. Its findings have definite relevance to North America. Researchers have revealed the European continent’s biggest health challenge of the 21st century: battling mental disorders.

Conditions of the brain have become the most pressing concern in Europe. The study also highlights that most mental disorders remain untreated. It is a remarkable burden. The three-year study covered 30 countries, spanning 514 million people. All major mental disorders for children through the elderly were included, as well as several neurological disorders. It is an unprecedented scope.

The study’s key findings were:

  • Each year, 38.2% of the population of the European Union (EU) — 165 million people — suffers from a mental disorder.
  • Mental disorders are prevalent in all age groups and affect the young as well as the elderly.
  • The most frequently occurring are anxiety disorders (14%), insomnia (7.0%), major depression (6.9%), somatoform disorders (6.3%), alcohol and drug dependence (4.0%), attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorders (ADHD, 5.0% in the young), and dementia (30% among those aged over 85).
  • For the most part, there was no major variation among countries.
  • There is no discernable reason why the rates are increasing.
  • There have been no recent improvements in the low treatment rates for mental disorders since 2005. — Only one-third of people receive treatment; those who do wait an average of several years to receive dated therapies.

What’s more is that millions of others in Europe suffer from neurologic disorders, such as stroke, traumatic brain injuries, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. As the result, disorders of the brain are the largest contributor to Europe’s total health burden — accounting for 26.6% of the total disease burden.

The four most disabling conditions were depression, dementias, alcohol use, and stroke. A big problem is that there is low awareness and knowledge about disorders of the brain, and how prevalent they are. The study calls for dramatically increased funding for better research into causes and treatments.

They believe that improved prevention and treatment for brain disorders is the core health challenge of the 21st century.

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