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Social isolation is one of the factors causing mental health problems. R. C.
Mental health disorders in Spain rocket by 30% in one year and the country heads the international table for use of antidepressants
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Mental health disorders in Spain rocket by 30% in one year and the country heads the international table for use of antidepressants

Among the most common contributing factors reported by one in three people in Spain are financial difficulties, social isolation and bereavement (all above 20%), in addition to family problems, separations or traumatic events

Alfonso Torices

Madrid

Wednesday, 10 April 2024, 23:19

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The mental health of people in Spain has suffered a steady but serious deterioration in recent years, but it is also worsening at an accelerated rate. These are the two main conclusions of a study carried out by the Axa Foundation, which has questioned people aged 18 to 75 in 16 developed countries on three continents (Europe, America and Asia) on the subject. The study has found that the number of psychological disorders in Spain is higher than the international average.

Just over a third of young people and adults, 34%, have mental health problems. The percentage indicates that the situation has got much worse in the space of just one year, as there are now 30% more people with mental health problems this year than in 2023. The number of people affected is even higher than in 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, when 28% of Spaniards admitted to having psychological problems.

The biggest cause of concern among Spaniards is depression. Up to 17% suffer from it, but this is closely followed by the trio of anxiety, phobias and post-traumatic stress, with 16% of Spaniards saying that they suffer from one of these conditions.

Eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia) are in third place with 3% of the population having such a condition. The percentages of these disorders are very high and like the general data, they have also shot up in the last twelve months, with a rise of 25%.

The spread of psychological distress has been steadily increasing over the last decade, but it spiked with the pandemic

One of the risk factors that explains this deterioration in mental health is the high level of stress reported by Spaniards. Almost two out of three, 62%, report habitually living with a medium-high level of stress. This is the highest percentage since the pandemic began and three points higher than in 2022.

Among the most common contributing factors reported by one in three people in Spain are financial difficulties, social isolation and bereavement (all above 20%), in addition to family problems, separations or traumatic events.

Sick leave due to psychological disorders has doubled in Spain (up 111%) in the last seven years and 61% of this enormous increase has occurred since the start of the pandemic.

Almost 4.5 million people in Spain take anxiolytics and hypnotics on a daily basis, which is 11% more than a decade ago. Consumption has skyrocketed in the last three years from 87 out of every thousand to 93 out of every thousand Spaniards taking them daily.

Antidepressants are taken on a daily basis by 4.6 million people in Spain; 97 out of every thousand. This figure represents an increase of 45% in just one decade.

The 34% of people in Spain with mental health problems is two points above the international average and only five of the 16 countries involved in the analysis reported a higher percentage. The country that reported the highest number of people with mental health problems was the USA (40%), followed by Turkey (38%), the UK and Ireland (37%) and Mexico (36%), with Japan as the country with fewest problems at just 19% of the population. Switzerland and France came in at 26%.

22% of people self-diagnose

The study indicates that Spain is the country with the second highest average stress level after Ireland (only two points higher) and it is the country with the highest percentage of habitual consumption of psychotropic drugs.

It is the country where the highest number of people have taken them at some time; 36%; with the exception of the UK, where most citizens reported taking antidepressants, anxiolytics and sleeping pills every week, at 16%. It is also the country where most people take them at least once a month, at 27%.

Up to 65% of those with psychological problems have asked a doctor for help in the last twelve months - half of them a psychologist or psychiatrist - a rate only slightly exceeded by France and Belgium at 67%. However, 22% of the population admit to self-diagnosing.

Only four out of ten people in Spain believe that the public health system gives them the appropriate support to treat their mental health problems. This 40% satisfaction rate is five points lower than a year ago and four points higher than the average for the 16 countries analysed.

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