China’s fast-paced lifestyle exacts a toll on residents’ mental health

Medical experts advise people to seek professional help early

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 April, 2017, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 April, 2017, 10:36pm

Are you persistently feeling down after losing your job or having difficulty sleeping because of bumps in your relationship? You’re not alone as a national survey in China has found the nation’s fast pace of work and life has caused a rising number of people to suffer from mood disorders.

The national survey on the country’s mental illness burden, conducted from 2012 to 2014, found the prevalence rate of mood disorders, represented by several syndromes including depression, rise to 4.06 per cent of the population, higher than a similar survey in limited geographic areas in the 1980s and 1990s, according to Wang Bin, deputy director of the disease prevention and control bureau of the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

The rate was given at a briefing on Friday to mark World Health Day and the survey covered 31 provinces and municipalities. There was no figure given for the number of people polled.

Other types of mood disorder include bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, in which sufferers swing between being “up” and full of energy and being deeply depressed; substance-induced disorders from misusing drugs or alcohol; or depression caused by an existing medical condition.

Talking about depression is the first step to beating it

“The fast development of the economy and society has speeded up the pace of our life and work and caused more stress among the public, which subsequently increases the risk of getting mood disorders,” Wang said.

Although one-third of those suffering mood disorders were not clinically diagnosed with depression, they truly felt miserable and their social life and work was impaired, she said.

“They have not reached the depression diagnosis standard, but they suffer persistent problems. This is a stage that the public must pay close attention to and get professional help to prevent sliding into clinical depression,” Wang said.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 1 in 10 people globally have suffered from major depressive disorders at least once in their lifetime and that, in China, more than 54 million people suffer from depression.

How depression and anxiety needn’t be lifelong afflictions

Wang Gang, president of Anding Hospital, a hospital in Beijing that specialises in mental disorders, said heredity played a primary role in contributing to nearly 50 per cent of depression, followed by pressure.

“The pressure can be chronic, unpredictable and uncontrollable. It is an important trigger for depression,” he said.

For every dollar spent on depression treatment, society gains four dollars in better health and ability to work
Dr Bernhard Schwartländer, WHO

Unpleasant incidents characterised by loss, such as losing a family member or divorce, could also be a trigger.

Depression levies an unacceptably high burden on both the individual and society. In China, depression is estimated to cost the nation US$7.8 billion every year from lost work days, medical expenses and funeral expenses, according to the WHO.

“The costs of depression are known. What is less well known is that for every dollar spent on depression treatment, society gains four dollars in better health and ability to work,” said Dr Bernhard Schwartländer, the WHO Representative in China.