Up to one in three has psychological problems
Psychological ailments are set to become the biggest challenge for the Swiss health service in the next decade.
Last week, the Swiss Health Observatory released a report stating that “it is possible that 17 per cent of the population could be suffering from psychological disorders”.
However, estimates can vary significantly. “A range of studies confirm that between 20 to 30 per cent of the population suffers from clinical psychological disorders,” according to Daniela Schuler of the Swiss Health Observatory, which coordinates the work of cantonal and federal health authorities.
Last September the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology published research on 30 countries, including Switzerland. On average some 38.2 per cent of people in Europe suffer from psychological disorders, the report states.
These figures are no exaggeration when compared to Swiss studies, according to Malafosse.
swissinfo.ch: Is it not worrying that 38 per cent of the population is affected?
Severe pathologies like manic depression – a significant disability – affect five-to-six per cent of the population. This is a serious public health problem.
swissinfo.ch: Does Switzerland has enough resources to tackle this problem?
But better education of primary care physicians is critical because at present, 90 per cent of those who suffer from depression and anxiety have never been to a specialist – or ever sought treatment at all, for that matter.
One of the biggest problems is that doctors tend not to continue their training after they open their practices.
swissinfo.ch: Despite new research findings, the current therapies are still very general.
We lack the knowledge to develop better therapies. Take the study of cancer and heart and circulatory diseases, for example; in comparison, efforts are still insufficient in our research area – not just in Switzerland, but worldwide.
swissinfo.ch: Why is this?
Exactly the same difficulties exist among the health authorities. And within psychiatry there are also major differences between the various psychological, physiological and biological approaches. All of this contributes to the large research gap.
swissinfo.ch: You have announced an epigenetic discovery, which establishes a link between abuse in childhood and stress in adulthood. This could contribute to the development of better therapies for patients.
This approach tries to understand how these factors alter the functioning of genes and will have an impact on all psychiatric disorders.
swissinfo.ch: Does this mean that epigenetic research will change our understanding of mental health if we can better understand the interaction of the genes that determine and change our behaviour?
The understanding of epigenetic factors may contribute to the understanding of how all these factors interact. It may also change the way in which specialists evaluate and treat their patients.
swissinfo.ch: Based on their clinical and laboratory experience, what is the main concern of specialists?
In addition there is an even bigger problem: drugs. Addiction worsens mental problems such as delusions, anxiety, depression and personality disorders.
There are mental illnesses that are conducive to drug use, which in turn aggravates the disease. From a clinical and social perspective, this aspect of mental illness has become very important.