Global Burden of Disease and the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2010 was a collaboration between seven institutions worldwide, and is a large-scale, systematic assessment of loss of health due to disease throughout the world. The report measures disease burden in DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years): the sum of years of potential life lost due to premature mortality and the years of productive life lost due to disability. GBD 2010 was published in The Lancet in December 2012.

The WHO's Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 was recently adopted by the 66th World Health Assembly in May 2013. The four major objectives of the plan for mental health include the strengthening of effective leadership and governance; providing comprehensive, integrated and responsive care, implementing strategies for promotion and prevention; and strengthening information systems, evidence and research. The document outlines specific actions for Member States and includes indicators and targets to evaluate progress.

The Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study: key findings and implications for global health and development

The Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study was a collaboration of 486 researchers from 303 institutions in 50 countries, coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. GBD 2010 synthesizes the world’s evidence on patterns, levels and trends in health and disease for 21 regions and 187 countries, over the period 1990-2010. The study quantifies the burden of disease in terms of scope, estimation methods and data sets available by age, sex, and country. The total data accounts for 291 diseases and injuries, 1160 major sequelae, and 67 risk factors. Results show large increases in average age at death; a decline in child mortality and malnutrition; increases of non-communicable diseases; and higher levels of disability from mental health conditions, substance abuse, musculoskeletal disorders, vision and hearing loss, neurological conditions and diabetes. Disease burden (DALYs) from mental and behavioural disorders increased by 38% since 1990. These disorders accounted for 7.4% of the global burden of disease in 2010.

For further information:

Professor Alan Lopez

Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Australia; and Health Metrics Institute, University of Washington, USA

Professor Lopez is Melbourne Laureate Professor and Rowden-White Char of Global Health at the University of Melbourne. He is also an Affiliate Professor of Global Health at IHME at the University of Washington. 


The Global Burden of Mental and Substance Use Disorders: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study


The Global Burden of Disease 2010 study used disability adjusted life years (DALYs) to estimate 20 mental and substance use disorders. A new meta-regression tool, DisMod-MR, was used to model prevalence by age, sex, country, and region in 1990, 2005 and 2010. In 2010, mental and substance use disorders accounted for 7.4% of global Disability Adjusted Life Years  (DALYs) and 22.8% of global global years lived with disability (YLDs). Depressive disorders accounted for 40% of mental and substance use disorder DALYs, anxiety disorders for 14.5%, illicit drug use disorder for 10.8%, and alcohol use disorders for 9.5%. The burden of mental and substance use disorders increased since 1990, largely driven by population growth and aging. Mental health disorders pose significant and growing challenge for health systems in both developed and developing regions.

"Improvement in population health will be greatly compromised unless countries make the prevention and treatment of mental and substance use disorders a priority."

For further information:

Professor Harvey Whiteford

School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Australia.

Professor Whiteford holds the Kratzmann Chair in Psychiatry and Population Health at the University of Queensland. He trained in medicine, psychiatry and health policy in Queensland and at Stanford University. Professor Whiteford currently leads the Policy and Epidemiology Group at the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research and the research group developing the mental disorders estimates for the Global Burden of Disease Study. He is also the Chief Investigator for an NH&MRC Centre for Research Excellence in mental health policy and planning.

The WHO Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan


On 27 May 2013, the 66th World Health Assembly adopted the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020 that has great potential to change the direction of mental health in countries around the world in the next 8 years. The action plan sets important new directions for mental health, highlighting the importance of protecting and promoting human rights and includes a central role for the provision of community-based care and support. It also addresses income generation and education opportunities, housing and social services and other social determinants of mental health and emphasises the need to develop a strong civil society and seeks to empower people with mental disabilities. For the first time, specific and measurable global targets and indicators have been agreed upon as a way to monitor implementation, progress and impact. The implementation of the Action Plan will require concerted effort from Member States, partners, and WHO to achieve its objectives.

"The goal is to promote mental well-being, prevent mental disorders, provide care, enhance recovery, promote human rights and reduce mortality, morbidity and disability for persons with mental disorders."

The CMAP sets a number of targets for 2020, including:

  • 80% of countries will develop or update their policies for mental health and 50% will develop or update their law for mental health.
  • Increase service coverage for severe mental disorders by 20%.
  • 80% of countries will have at least two national mental health promotion and protection programmes by 2016 and rates of suicide will be reduced by 10% by 2020.
  • 80% of countries will collect and report mental health indicators every two years through national health and social info systems.

For further information:

Dr Shekhar Saxena

Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, World Health Organisation, Switzerland.

Dr Saxena is the Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO. He evaluates evidence on effective public health measures and providing advice and technical assistance to ministries of health on mental, developmental, neurological and substance use disorder issues and establishing partnerships with academic centres and civil society organizations.

Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health: Integration in Research, Policy and Practice

Image Source: Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health

The Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health (GCGMH) identified pressing areas of need for research and policy interventions in order to reduce the burden of disease for mental, neurological, and substance use disorders. Globally, these disorders lead as sources of disability, and they increase morbidity and mortality when co-occurring with other medical disorders.  In fact, one of the Challenges is to "redesign health systems to integrate mental, neurological and substance use disorders with other chronic diseases."

Research accompanying efforts to meet the health-related Millennium Development Goals catalyzed the development, testing, and implementation of effective health interventions for priority conditions and stimulated the development of packages of care that integrate and bundle effective interventions—whether for reduction of maternal or child mortality or for HIV care and treatment.

No video is available for this presentation.

For further information:

Dr Pamela Collins

Offices for Special Populations, Rural Mental Health Research and Global Mental Health, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

Dr Collins is the Director of the Office for Research on Disparities & Global Mental Health and the Office of Rural Mental Health Research at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Through her research Dr Collins has worked to improve access to HIV prevention for people with severe mental illness as well as access to mental health care services for people with HIV domestically and internationally.

Dr Collins is a member of WHO’s Mental Health Gap Action Programme Forum, and is a leader of the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health initiative.