The Middle East is in a mental health crisis, due in part to sharply rising rates of homicide, sexual assault, and suicide, according to a study published in the International Journal of Public Health. The study, which analyzed data from 1990-2015, also found high rates of physical health problems, including an epidemic of HIV/AIDS.
Worsening Physical, Mental Health in the Middle East
The study used data from the 2015 Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors (GBD) study. This systematic data collection effort involved more than 2,300 researchers across 132 nations. Researchers looked at more than 300 health issues.
The analysis found high rates of mental and physical health issues across the 22 nations in the Middle East. This diverse region is home to more than 600 million people.
Researchers noted a significant increase in depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other mental health conditions and non-communicable diseases among people in the region. Overall, mental health conditions in the region amounted to 11 million years of life lived in a state of disability. Women were more likely than men to experience mental health issues, perhaps due to greater exposure to stress.
Leading Causes of Death in the Middle Eastviolence increased 152%, claiming 35,000 lives that same year. The study notes that cultural stigma against suicide may lead to underreporting, so it is likely the problem is even worse than official numbers suggest.
The suicide increase in other regions was just 19%, with increases in interpersonal violence of 12%. A lack of access to mental health services compounds the problem, the study reports.
In 2015, the fifth-leading cause of death in the Middle East was war and legal violence. In Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, these factors were the leading cause of death, accounting for 49.7% of all deaths in Syria alone.
HIV/AIDS-related deaths increased tenfold in the region. Because symptoms can be controlled, people with HIV/AIDS are less likely to die from the disease in other regions of the world. This points to a lack of adequate treatment and to problems with accessing treatment.
Child mortality decreased more slowly in the Middle East than elsewhere, with 80% of worldwide child deaths occurring in Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen. Adolescent pregnancy rates were also high in many countries.
A low-quality diet, the research found, is the leading cause of increased disability in the region.
The study calls for a comprehensive plan to address the complex needs of people in the Middle East. The researchers say this plan should draw upon health expertise, creating projects specifically designed to address the health crisis in the region.
- Mental illness, suicide, creating ‘lost generation’ in Middle East. (2017, August 7). Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-08/ifhm-mis080317.php
- Mokdad, A. H. (2017). Intentional injuries in the Eastern Mediterranean region, 1990-2015: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease 2015 study. International Journal of Public Health. doi:10.1007/s00038-017-1005-2
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