Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

Prevalence and Predictors of Symptoms of Mental Disorders in Ghana

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

Prevalence and Predictors of Symptoms of Mental Disorders in Ghana

Article excerpt


Health transition instigated by reconfiguration of mortality, modernization, increase in life expectancy, and its associated stresses is propelling a shift in disease burden from infectious to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) around the globe. One type of NDCs that is increasing at an alarming rate around the world is chronic mental disorders (WHO 2005a). WHO projections suggest that at least a quarter of world population will suffer from mental disorders during their life time and this will be more pronounced in developing world (Prince et al. 2007). WHO World Report (2001) states that as the world population increases, mental disorders which accounts for 12.3 % of the Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) out of the total DALYs for all disorders is set to increase considerably. For instance, by the year 2020, depression is expected to become the second leading cause of disease burden around the globe (Murray & Lopez 1996; Desjarlais 1995).

Considering that a reasonable proportion of world's population growth will occur in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), mental disorders are poised to account for sizable proportion of disease burden in the subcontinent (Okasha 2002). Estimates suggest that unipolar depression is expected to become the leading cause of illness in the SSA by the year 2020 (Forsgren 2008). Studies show that serious mental disorders left untreated can have incalculable outcomes for individuals (Lehman 1996).The interplay between mental health and improvement in the overall quality of life is clearly hammered home by Andrews (1994) as follows:

People with mental disorders have symptoms and behaviors that can impair their ability to work and love, and that can impair access to physical health care, income maintenance, education, housing, transport, legal advice, and leisure opportunities. While each citizen, mentally ill or not, has the right to have these commodities, citizens with mental disorders will often find access reduced, specifically because the symptoms and behaviors associated with the mental disorder impair their ability to compete for access.

Increasingly, research points to association between mental health and physical health outcomes. For instance, depression has been found to affect the occurrence, treatment, and outcome of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer (Chapman et al. 2005). Studies have documented that depression and frequent mental distress are associated with certain risky health behaviors such as physical inactivity, smoking, drinking (Strine et al. 2008), insufficient sleep (Strine & Chapman 2005) with dire consequences for longevity (Kubzansky et al. 2001). The virtues of good mental health have also been validated in improved educational outcomes (Sylva et al. 2007), higher economic productivity (Siddiqi & Siddiqi 2007), lower criminality (Singleton et al. 1998), and high social engagement (Lyubomirsky et al. 2005; Dolan et al. 2006). All in all, mental health is found to be an important predictor of how well an individual is able to contribute effectively and productively to society as well as personal quality of life (Siddiqi & Siddiqi 2007). It is against the backdrop of the above stated virtues of mental health that the mantra "there cannot be health without mental health" (Prince et al. 2007) has gained popularity in psychiatric and epidemiological literature.

In lieu of the dividends from mental health at micro and macro levels of society, SSA countries are beginning to accept the claim that taming the tide of mental disorders is crucial part of public health (Gureje & Alem 2000; Rossler et al. 1998) and a noble economic investment. The case for investment in mental health is clearly articulated by the Director General of WHO Chan's in one of her 2010 speeches as follows:

Almost three quarters of the global burden of neuropsychiatric disorders occurs in low and middle income countries. …

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