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100 Million Chinese Suffer From Mental Illness

Beijing, China.
by Staff Writers
Beijing, China (XNA) Sep 25, 2006
Experts claim that as many as 100 million people out of China's 1.3 billion population may be suffering from mental illness. The estimates are based on surveys carried out in several parts of the country, said Zhang Mingyuan, an expert with the mental illness branch of the Chinese Medical Association, at the seventh annual meeting of the association's psychiatry branch.

In North China's Hebei Province, a survey conducted on 24,000 people aged over 18 showed the total incidence of "mental disease" was 140.47 per thousand, with a higher rate among women than men and among rural than urban residents.

In five universities in southwest China's Sichuan Province, 14.6 percent of 2,800 students interviewed suffered from psychological problems such as depression, over-sensitiveness and communication difficulties. About half of them needed mental health intervention.

In East China's Shandong Province, the latest survey shows the incidence of mental disease in parts of rural areas is 6.1 percent, much higher than the figure recorded 10 years ago, according to the meeting.

Experts at the meeting called for a new round of nationwide epidemiological research into mental illness, in order to update figures and help formulate control guidelines.

"Relevant departments should launch the research as soon as possible, so that the real situation can be established," said Zhou Dongfeng, an expert with the association.

Part of the difficulty comes from defining what is and what is not "mental disease".

China conducted epidemiological research into mental illness in the 1980s and 1990s. The latest official figures, which date back to 1993 and suggest that China has 16 million mental patients, most likely underestimate the real situation.

Vice Health Minister Chen Xiaohong revealed last year that mental and neural diseases were the most costly diseases in the nation, accounting for 20 percent of medical funds.

The capital, Beijing, has 130,000 registered severely psychotic patients, but 70 percent of them have no access to free medicine and about 60 percent are not receiving medical care due to a lack of medical professionals and funding, said the municipal health bureau this year.

The World Health Organization estimates that by 2010, mental illness could account for a quarter of total spending on medical treatment in China.

In 2002 the central government set several targets for 2010: public awareness of mental illnesses will reach 50 percent, mental illness and psychological problems among children and teenagers will drop to 12 percent, 60 percent of schizophrenia cases will be cured, and 800 million people will have access to mental health care if they need it.

Source: Xinhua News Agency

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