Singapore Mental Health Study 2016 Reveals Most Prevalent Mental Illnesses- Many Still Not Seeking Treatment

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The second Singapore Mental Health Study, conducted in 2016, revealed that major depressive disorder (most commonly known as depression) is the most prevalent mental illness in the adult Singapore resident population. The study was led by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), and interviewed 6,126 adult Singaporeans or permanent residents. The proportion of respondents who experienced depression in their lifetime increased to 6.3%, compared to 5.8% in the first Singapore Mental Health Study in 2010.

Alcohol abuse disorders was next most common mental health issue (4.1%), followed by obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD; 3.6%). These findings indicate that major depressive disorder, alcohol abuse and obsessive compulsive disorder continued to be the top three mental health issues experienced in Singapore.

On top of establishing 12-month and lifetime prevalence rates of mental illnesses, the study also explored how mental health treatment services are utilized, treatment gaps, barriers to seeking treatment, and demographic factors associated with mental illnesses.

More in Singapore are struggling with mental illnesses

Almost one in seven respondents (13.9%) reported that they had faced mental illness some time in their life. This was higher than the 12% (or about one in eight people) who reported this in 2010.

Millennials between ages 18 to 34 were more likely to report experiencing a mental health issue compared to other age groups. Being divorced or separated increased the risk of mood disorders in this group. Males who are employed, but with lower levels of education, are at higher risk of alcohol use disorders.

Comorbidity of mental illness, or experiencing more than one mental illness at the same time (e.g. having both depression and an anxiety disorder), increased from 2.5% to 3.5%.

Seeking help for mental disorders in Singapore

The study found that three quarter of adults in Singapore who had mental illness did not seek treatment. Although the minority group which had seek help are seeking treatment earlier, these individuals still took years to do so.

The average duration of delay in treatment for individuals who had depression was one year from onset, while those who had generalized anxiety disorder took two years before seeking treatment. Individuals experiencing obsessive compulsive disorders had the longest treatment delay period of eleven years. The researchers commented that the loose application of the term “OCD” in the community to describe a person who values neatness or cleanliness, and the mild nature of obsessive compulsive disorder at onset can be attributed to the significant delay in seeking treatment.

Respondents who seek treatment for mental illnesses most commonly turned to psychiatrists (42.3%), followed by counsellors (36.5%). 26.2% of them seek treatment from a psychologist while 20% consulted a family doctor or a general practitioner.

Source: Business Insider Singapore

Muhammad Haikal Bin Jamil

About the Author

Haikal received his Master degree at the National University of Singapore (NUS), under a full scholarship awarded by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS). Before entering private practice, he has gained much experience in both hospital and social services settings.

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