1 in 4 people

affected by a psychiatric disorder

1st cause of disability

in the world by 2020

1'400'000

people affected in Switzerland

In 2011, a study by H.U. Wittchen, showed that 38.2% of Europeans are affected by a mental disorder. The same year, the World Health Organization pointed to a figure of only 20%.

These 2 epidemiological studies were conducted with the expertise of world-renowned institutes, so can we explain such a difference? Simply because some studies include mild disorders, severe pathologies and neurological diseases and others do not. Some take into account incidence (the probability of contracting a disease over a given period of time), others take into account lifetime prevalence (a measure of the proportion of people who will be affected by a given disease during their lifetime) or prevalence at a given point in time. In addition, the situation varies from country to country, region to region and even population to population.

This simple demonstration is of interest because it shows to what extent figures, however correct they may be, should be handled with care and critically examined –  mental health is no exception.

(sources: Sciences & Santé 2012, H.U. European Neuropsychopharmacol, September 2011)

Mental health in general


20% of young people are concerned

Most psychiatric conditions appear before the age of 25. One in five young people between 13 and 18 years of age is concerned.

10 years on average before diagnosis

Today, on average for example, 10 years elapse between the first symptom of a bipolar disorder, and the start of treatment. At present, therefore, the diagnosis comes far too late.

In 50% of cases, other diseases are associated with psychiatric disorders

Several epidemiological studies on psychiatric disorders place the lifetime co-morbidity rate between 42 and 60% (Tholen, 2006).

Addictive behaviours are found in 30 to 40% of patients

admitted to psychiatry for a mental disorder (RefPsy)

Life expectancy reduced by 10 years

Life expectancy for patients with psychiatric disorders would be reduced from 10 to 20 years.

Depression will be the world's leading disease in 2030

It currently occupies 3rd place (UN)


Psychiatric illness is the third leading cause of death worldwide

According to the results of the joint study by the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) and the Institute Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) conducted in 2013, deaths due to psychiatric disorders represent 13.6% of total deaths in Switzerland. Mental illness is therefore the third leading cause of death, just after cancer (16%) and musculoskeletal diseases (14.1%). More people die from psychiatric illnesses than from cardiovascular problems (12.8%). (Obsan 2016)

Cancer 16%
Diseases of the locomotor system 14.1%
Psychiatric disorders 13.6%
Cardiovascular disorders 12.8%

The costs


Mental illness is very expensive: 1/3 of the burden of  illness

Disease burden is a synthetic indicator combining mortality and morbidity. We could talk about weight or load. Depression alone is the largest contributor to the total burden of disease in Europe (WHO, 2010).

73% are indirect costs

Mental health issues have a particularity: the costs incurred (such as lost productivity, for example) are much higher than the costs of care. Thus, 73% of the economic burden of affective disorders (depression and bipolar disorders) are indirect costs. (OECD)

1$ = 4$

One study shows that every dollar invested in treating anxiety and depression would provide a four-dollar return in the form of better health and increased labour productivity. The study estimates that to significantly improve the treatment situation, some $184 billion would need to be invested globally by 2030 in the treatment of anxiety and depression (Chisholm et al., 2016; Kleinman et al., 2016).

Less than 10% of the health budget

Despite the scale of the problem, mental health represents far too small a share of health expenditure in Europe (OECD).

4% of GDP

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that mental health disorders represent a cost of 3 to 4% to the European Union's GDP.

Up to 50% of chronic sick leave

is due to depression and anxiety


692.5billion euros per year

The direct and indirect costs (e.g. loss of productivity) of mental illness are extremely high. A study published in Nature in 2011 estimated the annual burden of psychiatric disorders in Europe at 692.5 billion euros. 170 billion euros per year is the cost for just mood and anxiety disorders in the European Union. (Nature 2011).

In Switzerland


More than CHF 18 billion per year

Estimated economic costs to Swiss society: consisting of direct medical costs (37%), such as psychiatric and psychotherapeutic treatment by the health system, direct non-medical costs (13%), such as the actual costs to social services and the intangible costs of informal assistance provided under the social care system, and indirect costs (50%), such as work disability or early retirement, by the economic system (OECD).

2'020 CHF per inhabitant

In Switzerland, the total cost of psychiatric disorders and neurological diseases was around CHF 15.8 billion (EUR 14.5 billion) in 2010. With annual per capita costs of CHF 2070 (EUR 1 900), Switzerland is well above the European average (CHF 1690 / EUR 1 550) and ranks seventh in the Europe just behind Germany (Maercker et al. 2013 / Obsan 2016).

Most common cause of disability

In Switzerland, people affected by mental illness accounted for 46% of all "AI" pensioners in 2015 (OFAS 2016/ Obsan 2016).

Suicide in Switzerland: 3 people die every day

That is 4 times more deaths by suicide than road accidents.