Singapore mental health woes on rise: study

man, depressed, hoodie

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is the third most common mental health conditions in Singapore, following depression and alcoholism, according to a study of 6,126 Singaporeans and permanent residents.

OCD affected one in 28 people in their lifetime, with 18 to 34-year-olds more likely to suffer than the over-50s, said the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and Nanyang Technological University research for the second Mental Health Study.

IMH Professor Chong Siow Ann said one OCD symptom was fear of contamination, causing excessive washing and a “tremendous impairment” to daily life.

But OCD sufferers were reportedly waiting on average 11 years before seeking help, the data suggested.

One in seven residents experienced mood, anxiety or alcoholism in their lifetimes, according to the study, which was produced with the Ministry of Health.

This was seen as a significant increase from 2010 when the study was last conducted.

The lifetime prevalence of 13.9 per cent in 2016 marked an increase from 12 per cent from the 2010 study.

Singapore’s S$4.5-million research project was funded by the ministry and Temasek Foundation Innovates.

The most common condition was depression, experienced by 1 in 16 people, with 18 to 34-year-olds more likely to suffer than the over-50s. Respondents who had been divorced and separated were more likely to have experienced the condition.

Alcohol abuse affected 1 in 24 people or about 4.1 per cent, up from 3.1 per cent in 2010, the researchers said.

Other conditions surveyed included bipolar and generalised anxiety.

The study said 82.1 per cent of all mental-health sufferers were not seeking help in the 2010 study, which had decreased slightly to 78.4 per cent by 2016 when the research began.

The inability to recognise the symptoms of a mental illness and concerns about the stigma associated with an illness were two common reasons for treatment delay, according to previous studies.

But those who sought help were acting quicker.

The treatment delay for alcoholism had decreased from 13 years to four years and for depression, the treatment delay fell from four years to 12 months.

Dr Mythily Subramaniam, director of research at IMH, welcomed “early positive trends” such as the decreasing delays seeking treatment.

“Nonetheless, there is still a significant proportion of people who are not seeking help, which is a concern and we hope that this will improve,” she said.

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