The study is the country’s first nationally representative research into common mental disorders and was concluded as part of an international World Health Organisation (WHO) study.
Of the 14 countries in the WHO study, South Africa had the second-highest substance-abuse linked disorders. Citizens also reported a high rate of exposure to psychological trauma.
Professor Dan Stein, lead investigator and head of the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at the University of Cape Town, said that 30 percent of those who had been identified with a substance disorder had it to a severe degree.
Age of onset was also earlier for substance abuse disorder (24 years) than for anxiety (32 years) or mood (37 years) disorders.
Dr Krish Vallabhjee, Chief Director in the Western Cape health department said there had been a sizeable increase in patients who have a mental disorder linked to substance abuse and more specifically ‘tik’.
‘Substance abuse is a big problem and there is no doubt that the tik problem is contributing to the big increase in psychosis,’ said Vallabhjee.
Just over one in 10 (11%) of the 4000 South Africans interviewed for the study reported one mental disorder, while some 5 percent had more than two disorders.
In the 12 months leading up to being the interviewed, eight percent of people had experienced an anxiety disorder, six percent had a substance disorder, five percent had a mood disorder and two percent had an impulse disorder.
Stein acknowledged the incidence of mental disorders may be higher than reported as the survey was unable to include psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia or HIV-related dementia — mainly because the three-hour questionnaire would not be able to diagnose these conditions.
The study also found that over three-quarters of South Africans with severe mental disorders were not receiving treatment. This placed South Africa in the lowest one-third in the WHO study for treatment.
‘The number of people on treatment is unacceptably low,’ said Stein, who warned that too little money was being channeled to treating those who need help.
‘The smallest percentage of [health] funding goes to mental health,’ he pointed out. ‘ Health-e News Service.