Most people will be affected by a mental health disorder at some point in their lives.
Research published earlier this year in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology suggests that approximately 80 percent of the population will experience a diagnosable mental health issue, like depression, over time. The study also found that for most people, the condition is temporary.
In an essay for Scientific American, researchers Aaron Reuben and Jonathan Schaefer wrote that this means mental health issues may be more common than physical health problems.
“Our study shows that you are more likely to experience a bout of mental illness than you are to develop diabetes, heart disease or any kind of cancer whatsoever ― combined,” they explained.
To reach their results, the team examined one generation of New Zealanders from the same small town from birth to middle age. The researchers conducted check-ins with the participants every few years to measure any symptoms of mental health issues that may have occurred in the prior years, including impairment of functioning at work or in relationships, severe distress and more.
“In our cohort only 17 percent of study members did not develop a disorder, at least briefly, by middle age,” the authors wrote in Scientific American. “Because we can’t be certain these individuals remained disorder-free in the years between assessments, the true proportion that never experienced a mental illness may be even smaller.”
They also pointed out that among the masses that will deal with a mental health issue, the majority of them won’t seek treatment. That’s potentially dangerous: Untreated mental illness can be attributed to the majority of deaths by suicide, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The study results are further proof that mental illness is just as serious and valid as any other health condition. Previous research shows there’s still a massive stigma surrounding mental health disorders, and those attitudes often prevent people from seeking medical treatment.
But the reality is that people are susceptible to these issues ― thanks to biological and environmental factors ― and no one should feel ashamed for their experience.
Read more about the study over at Scientific American.