Is the global prevalence rate of adult mental illness increasing? Systematic review and meta‐analysis

Richter, Dirk; Wall, A.; Bruen, A.; Whittington, R. (2019). Is the global prevalence rate of adult mental illness increasing? Systematic review and meta‐analysis Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 140(5), pp. 393-407. Wiley-Blackwell - STM 10.1111/acps.13083

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Objectives The question whether mental illness prevalence rates are increasing is a controversially debated topic. Epidemiological articles and review publications that look into this research issue are often compromised by methodological problems. The present study aimed at using a meta‐analysis technique that is usually applied for the analysis of intervention studies to achieve more transparency and statistical precision. Methods We searched PubMed, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Google Scholar and reference lists for repeated cross‐sectional population studies on prevalence rates of adult mental illness based on ICD‐ or DSM‐based diagnoses, symptom scales and distress scales that used the same methodological approach at least twice in the same geographical region. The study is registered with PROSPERO (CRD42018090959). Results We included 44 samples from 42 publications, representing 1 035 697 primary observations for the first time point and 783 897 primary observations for the second and last time point. Studies were conducted between 1978 and 2015. Controlling for a hierarchical data structure, we found an overall global prevalence increase in odds ratio of 1.179 (95%‐CI: 1.065–1.305). A multivariate meta‐regression suggested relevant associations with methodological characteristics of included studies. Conclusions We conclude that the prevalence increase in adult mental illness is small, and we assume that this increase is mainly related to demographic changes.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


School of Health Professions


Richter, Dirk0000-0002-6215-6110;
Wall, A.;
Bruen, A. and
Whittington, R.




Wiley-Blackwell - STM




Christoph Golz

Date Deposited:

24 Jan 2020 06:54

Last Modified:

18 Dec 2020 13:29

Publisher DOI:





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