The world still has a long way to go when it comes to eliminating stigma surrounding mental health.
Despite the fact just about everyone knows someone – ourselves or someone close to us – who has lived through a mental illness.
And in fact, according to a new study, a vast majority of people will develop a mental illness at some point in their lives.
Research published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology followed a generation of people born in the same town in New Zealand from birth right through to middle age.
Checking on participants’ mental health every few years, they found that more than 80% of them developed a mental illness at some point while 17% didn’t show any signs of doing so.
Researcher Aaron Reuben noted in Scientific American that this study was different from others – which tend to ask participants to reflect on the past rather than the present – and thus produced different results.
“We found that if you follow people over time, and screen them regularly using simple, evidence-based tools, the percentage of people who develop a diagnosable mental illness at any point in their lives jumps to well over 80%,” he said.
“In our cohort only 17% of study members did not develop a disorder, at least briefly, by middle age.
“Because we can’t be certain these individuals remained disorder-free in the years between assessments, the true proportion that never experienced a mental illness may be even smaller.
“Put another way, our study shows that you are more likely to experience a bout of mental illness than you are to develop diabetes, heart disease or any kind of cancer whatsoever – combined.”
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