If you’ve visited this blog before, you’ll know I like to bang on about the accurate and sensitive portrayal of common mental health problems. You may have noticed that I don’t find many good portrayals – in fact, I sometimes find it hard to find any examples at all.
Mental health has a visibility problem. Is that because it’s not all that common to have a mental illness? Or is it because we like to hide from things that scare us and that we find hard to understand?
Of course, some mental health problems are overrepresented. If you watch enough crime drama, you might be forgiven for thinking that one-quarter of the population of New York City is a psychopath – and the other three-quarters victims.
To clear things up, here are a list of mental health statistics, comparing common mental health problems that you might see in fiction to reality in the UK. I’ve included nods to other health problems, to give an idea of scale.
(NB: for most stats, I’m using prevalence, which is the number of people with a condition during a given time – as opposed to incidence, which is the number of folk diagnosed with a problem during a time period)
One in four adults will experience a mental health problem in any one year
That’s 25%. For comparison, 21% of adults have a university degree.
8-12% of the population experience depression in a year
Asthma has a similar prevalence at 9.6%.
Postnatal depression affects 8-15% of women
This is similar to the lifetime risk for breast cancer at 12.5%.
Social anxiety is the third most common mental health problem worldwide, with a prevalence of about 5%
In England, diabetes has a prevalence of 6%.
2-3% of the population will experience obsessive-compulsive disorder in their lifetime
2% of the population are vegetarian.
1 in 200 people will experience a probable psychotic episode in any year
1 in 200 people will be diagnosed with cancer in a year.
Schizophrenia is the most common psychotic disorder, affecting 1.2-2.4% of people at any one time
Epilepsy has a prevalence of just under 1%.
Over a lifetime, 0.9-2.1% people will have a diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder
The risk of developing leukaemia is 1.7%.
0.6% of the population have significant psychopathic traits
0.4% of the population are doctors.
Each year, around 5,000 people die by suicide
About 1,700 people die in road traffic accidents and 550 are murdered. Suicide is the leading cause of death in young men under 35.
With thanks to Mental Health UK’s excellent Fundamental Facts