6 - EASO Mental health of applicants for international protection in Europe
Statistics reveal a prevalence of mental health concerns not only in periods of conflict but also during
peaceful times. Mental health concerns seem to be a globa l problem. Health systems worldwide are
challenged with the consequences faced by a lack of investment in mental health. The WHO pointed this out
already back in 2003. It mentioned that investment in mental health ser vices will result in individuals and
communities that are better able to cope with the stresses and conflicts that are part of everyday life, and
who will therefore enjoy a better quality of life and better health 1 .
According to the WHO2: Mental health and well-being are influenc ed not only by individual attributes but
also by the social circumstances and the environment in which people find them selves. These determinants
interact dynamically and may threaten or protect an individual’ s mental state.
Mental disorders are one of the most significant public health challenges in the WHO European
Region, as they are the leading cause of disability.
They are the third leading cause of overall disease burden (measured as disability-adjusted life yea rs),
after cardiovascular disease and cancers.
The estimated prevalence of mental disorders in the WHO Euro pean Region in 2015 was 110 million,
equivalent to 12 % of the entire population.
Inclusion of substance use disorders increases that number by 27 million (to 15 %).
Inclusion of neurological disorders such as dementia, epilepsy and headache disorders increases the
total by more than 300 million, to 50 %.
In terms of mental health in emergency situations, the WHO sugg ests that3:
The prevalence of common mental disorders such as depression a nd anxiety is expected to more than
double in a humanitarian crisis.
Most people affected by emergencies will experience distress (e.g. feelings of anxiety and sadness,
hopelessness, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, irritability or anger and/or aches and pains). This is normal
and will improve over time for most people.
Among people who have experienced war or other conflict in the p revious 10 years, one in 11 (9 %)
will have a moderate or severe mental disorder.
One person in five (22%) living in an area affected by conflict is estimated to have depression, anxiety,
post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
Depression tends to be more common among women than men.
Depression and anxiety are more common as people get older.
While data on population worldwide and in the European Union (EU) demonstrate that nobody is immune or
safe from having a mental health concern at some point in their lives, applicants for international protection
1 WHO, Investing in mental health, Geneva, 2003.
2 WHO, Regional Office for Europe, Mental Health: Fact Sheet, 2019.
3 WHO, Mental health in emergencies: key facts, 11 June 2019.

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