Approximately 30% of South Africans will have a psychiatric condition at some point in their lifetime. This is according to the first South African Stress and Health (SASH) study which was made public this month.
The study also found that 11.2% of people have two or more disorders and 3.5% three or more. Prevalence rates are highest in the Western Cape and Free State.
Anxiety disorders (especially agoraphobia – fear of open spaces) are the most common disorders, followed by substance use disorders and mood disorders, particularly major depression.
This first nationally-representative study of common mental disorders in the country was conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organisation’s World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative.
Compared to 14 other countries in the WMH Survey, South Africa has the second highest prevalence for substance use disorders, sixth highest for anxiety disorders and seventh highest for mood disorders.
Few get treated
One of the researchers, Prof Soraya Seedat from the Medical Research Council, says that the most significant finding is the fact that about three quarters (75%) of South Africans with a mental disorder are not receiving treatment. Of those who do receive treatment, the majority (35.5%) are treated by general medical practitioners.