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More people in Singapore have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime, study finds

SINGAPORE — One in seven people in Singapore have experienced a mental disorder such as bipolar disorder or alcohol abuse in their lifetime, an increase from roughly one in eight several years ago.

More people in Singapore have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime, study finds

The latest nationwide study found that one in seven people in Singapore have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime.

SINGAPORE — One in seven people in Singapore have experienced a mental disorder such as bipolar disorder or alcohol abuse in their lifetime, an increase from roughly one in eight several years ago.

The top three mental disorders here were major depressive disorder, alcohol abuse and obsessive compulsive disorder. This is based on the finding of the second Singapore Mental Health Study, which started in 2016 and involved interviews with 6,126 Singaporeans and permanent residents.

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The lifetime prevalence of 13.9 per cent in 2016 marked an increase from 12 per cent in 2010, when the first study was conducted.

Depression was the most common mental disorder, with one in 16 people in Singapore having the condition at some point in their lives.

One in 24 people experienced alcohol abuse, while one in 28 people suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder.

The lifetime prevalence of all mental disorders showed an increase — especially for generalised anxiety disorder and alcohol abuse.

Some 1.6 per cent of people in Singapore experienced generalised anxiety disorder, up from 0.9 per cent in 2010.

And 4.1 per cent of people in Singapore experienced alcohol abuse, up from 3.1 per cent in 2010.

There was also an increase in those having two or more mental disorders at the same time — from 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent.

Researchers from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) said that the increase in lifetime prevalence of people experiencing a mental disorder could be due to increased awareness of mental disorders, as well as more sources of stress, although the study did not delve into specific stressors.

Overall, however, the prevalence in Singapore is lower than that in Western countries and may be lower than Asian countries, said Dr Mythily Subramaniam, the co-principal investigator of the study and the director of IMH's research division.

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The study also found that the proportion of people with mental disorders who were not seeking help remains high. From more than eight in 10 people (82.1 per cent) in the 2010 study, the number fell slightly to 78.4 per cent — or more than three in four people — in 2016.

But those who had sought help were doing so earlier.

In the case of alcohol abuse, the treatment delay decreased from 13 years to four years. For depression, the treatment delay decreased from four years to a year, while for bipolar disorder, the treatment delay was reduced from nine to four years.

Bucking the trend were those who had obsessive compulsive disorder, who were taking longer than before to seek help. From nine years in 2010, the figure increased to 11 years in 2016.

Dr Mythily welcomed “early positive trends” such as the shorter delay in people seeking treatment.

“Nonetheless, there is still a significant proportion of people who are not seeking help, which is a concern and we hope that this will improve,” she added.

The study was spearheaded by the IMH in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Nanyang Technological University. It was funded by the ministry and philanthropic organisation Temasek Foundation Innovates.

The researchers are now analysing data from the study on sleep disorders and psychosis in the population.

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