Over 90% surveyed with depressive disorders in China fail to seek treatment: study
Published: Sep 26, 2021 10:02 PM
Depressive disorders Photo: VCG

Depressive disorders Photo: VCG

More than 90 percent of people surveyed with depressive disorders in China fail to seek treatment, and only 0.5 percent have received adequate treatment, according to a new survey on Chinese citizens' mental health. 

The results of study on the burden of mental disorders and health service utilization in China, also known as the China Mental Health Survey, were revealed at a conference and expert forum in Beijing on Sunday. The study, which took three years to complete, investigated the prevalence of mental disorders and their distribution characteristics among adults in the Chinese community, and pointed out the current situation of low utilization of health services and low access to adequate treatment for people with depressive disorders in China.

The study found that in China, the prevalence of depressive disorders is higher in women than in men; higher in housewives, retired, and the unemployed than in those with jobs; higher in separated, widowed, or divorced people than in married or cohabiting people; and more common in older age groups, in a cross-sectional epidemiological survey of mental disorders in Chinese adults with 28,140 respondents (12,537 males and 15,603 females) completed at 157 nationally representative disease surveillance sites in 31 provincial-level regions in China. 

The lifetime prevalence of depressive disorder in Chinese adults was 6.8 percent, lower than that of the world, including 3.4 percent for depression, 1.4 percent for dysphoric disorder, and 3.2 percent for unspecified depressive disorder. The 12-month prevalence of depressive disorder was 3.6 percent, including 2.1 percent for depression, 1.0 percent for premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and 1.4 percent for unspecified depressive disorder, the research shows.

The study has provided the first nationally representative epidemiological data on depressive disorders in China and is expected to have an important role in national mental health policy formulation and adjustment and in advancing the treatment of patients with depressive disorders. The results have been included in leading international medical journal, The Lancet.

This study is a landmark research because it provides the first national data on the epidemiological prevalence, distribution characteristics, and access to treatment status of depressive disorders in adults in China, which is an important reference for designating mental health policies from a clinical health service utilization perspective, Wang Yu, former director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the forum.

Lu Jin, lead author of the paper, told the Global Times during the forum that compared to the world, the prevalence of depressive disorders in China is low, which is due to many factors. 

"The fact that many Chinese people have difficulty expressing emotions (alexithymia) may be one of the causes of this status," Lu said. "In addition, there is a relationship between socioeconomic development and depressive disorders, which is a state associated with psychosocial disorders."