Mental Health Disorders – Southern India Tops The List

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In a study published in Lancet Psychiatry, the prevalence of mental health disorders is high among the southern states.


The study conducted by the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative found that southern states Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh account for the high prevalence of mental health disorders.

The disorders primarily manifest during adulthood in the form of depression and anxiety.

The study is the first comprehensive mental health disease estimate for the country from 1990 till 2017.

The Estimates

  • According to the study, there are 197 million Indians suffering from mental health problems of varying severity in 2017. This is 14.3% of the population.
  • The mental health disorders in the country are idiopathic developmental intellectual disability, depression, anxiety disorders, conduct disorders, autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
  • In the period between 1990 and 2017, the disability-adjusted life year (DALY) due to mental health disorders doubled from 2.5% to 4.7%.
  • On a global scale, in 2017, mental disorders are the second leading cause of disease burden in terms of years lived with disability (YLDs) and is the sixth leading cause of disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs).
  • As per the study, 45.7 million people are suffering from depression and it is the major reason for the loss of one year every three years.
  • Second, comes anxiety disorders with a total of 44.9 million people suffering from it and accounting for the loss of a year every 5 years.

Three Categories

  • The study put states into three categories based on their socio-demographic index (SDI) – low, medium and high SDI states.
  • The SDI measures per-capita income, mean education, and fertility rate in women below 25 years of age.
  • As per the state-wide analysis, Tamil Nadu topped the list with highest depressive disorders leading to a loss of 836 years per 1 lakh population; Kerala is second with a loss of 641 years., Goa – 626 years, Telangana – 756 years. All these are high SDI states.
  • In medium SDI states group, Andhra Pradesh topped the list with a loss of 793 years.
  • Among states, anxiety disorders are common in Kerala leading to a loss of 383 years per 1 lakh population.
  • Next comes Himachal Pradesh with a loss of 329 years, Tamil Nadu – 325 years, Karnataka – 324 years, Telangana – 324 years, Maharashtra – 324 years. All these are high SDI states.
  • Among medium SDI states, Manipur leads with a loss of 360 years, followed by West Bengal – 331 years and Andhra Pradesh – 328 years.


Due to the changing lifestyles and the lack of proper support systems due to shrinking family size, the mental health disorders are increasing in the country. As such, the mental health disorders among adults are higher in southern states. Among school going children, bullying is the major cause for depression and anxiety. This is high in northern states. As mental disorders are adding to the disease burden of the country, more research must be undertaken to identify the causes and policy initiatives can be taken to build coping mechanisms

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