Mental Illnesses

Mental illness is a risk factor for non-communicable diseases and its presence increases the chance that an individual will also suffer from one or more chronic illnesses

Moreover, people with mental health conditions are less likely to seek help for other NCD symptoms, which may affect how effective their treatment is, as well as its prognosis.

Economic burden

Mental disorders represent an ever-increasing burden, to all ages of the population, challenging mental health and health systems. For example 1 in 160 children suffer from an autism spectrum disorder [1], while depression affects 350 million people in all communities across the world and represents the third leading contributor to the global disease burden [2]. Dementia affects 47.5 million people worldwide with 58% of people living with dementia in low- and middle-income countries [3]. Global costs associated with mental disorders are expected to rise to US$ 6.0 trillion by 2030. [4]


Mental and neurological disorders for example, depression, dementia, autism, epilepsy and schizophrenia, can be experienced in isolation or as co-morbidities with other NCDs.

Risk factors

Risk factors include genetics, older age, tobacco use, drug and alcohol use, diets high in sugar and salt and physical inactivity. Environmental exposures such as pollution, and disaster risks due to emergency responses to climate change can also put people at risk.

Global response

In 2013, the WHO World Health Assembly endorsed WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020, which “recognises the essential role of mental health in achieving health for all people.”

World Mental Health Day is held annually on the October 10th.

  1. WHO Fact Sheet ‘Autism spectrum disorders’, January 2016
  2. WHO Fact sheet nr 369, 2012
  3. WHO Fact sheet nr 362, 2015
  4. Bloom, D.E., Cafiero, E.T., Jané-Llopis, E., Abrahams-Gessel, S., Bloom, L.R., Fathima, S., Feigl, A.B., Gaziano, T., Mowafi, M., Pandya, A., Prettner, K., Rosenberg, L., Seligman, B., Stein, A.Z., & Weinstein, C. (2011).The Global Economic Burden of Noncommunicable Diseases. Geneva: World Economic Forum.
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