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Common mental disorders may be more common than we think
Date:9/10/2009

ages 18 to 32 at a rate of about 18 percent. But they have been roundly criticized by some for their rates being too high. The latest analysis from the Dunedin Study found 41 percent of that age range had experienced clinically significant depression.

Similarly, the survey studies have reported a 6 to 17 percent lifetime rate of alcohol dependence between ages 18-32, versus nearly 32 percent in the Dunedin Study.

Guidelines published by the American Psychiatric Association that set the bar for defining what is and isn't a treatable illness are currently being revised by a rewriting of the authoritative Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). But given the findings of these longitudinal studies, the stringency of the diagnostic criteria might need to be reconsidered, said Moffitt, who is on the committee writing the new DSM-Vstandards.

"Researchers might begin to ask why so many people experience a disorder at least once during their lifetimes and what this means for the way we define mental health, deliver services and count the economic burdens of mental illness," Moffitt said.

On the one hand, it could be argued that the diagnostic standards have been set too low if so many people can be considered mentally ill. On the other hand, perhaps these findings argue for more and better mental health care because the disorders are more common than anyone had realized.

"There are two opposing camps, and I'm agnostic about that," Moffitt said.

At the very least, maybe these findings can help reduce the stigma against mental illness and mental health care, Moffitt added. New Zealand, for example, has begun a new campaign of public service announcements featuring sports heroes saying they've experienced mental health issues.

"If we're serious about this problem, we need to get serious about preventing it," Costello added. "We do know a lot more about prevention now."


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Contact: Karl Leif Bates
karl.bates@duke.edu
919-681-8054
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

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