Background The high prevalence of mental disorders has fuelled controversy about the need for mental health services
Aims To estimate unmet need for mental healthcare at the population level in Europe.
Method As part of the European Study of Epidemiology of Mental Disorders (ESEMeD) project, a cross-sectional survey was conducted of representative samples of the adult general population of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Spain (n=8796). Mental disorders were assessed with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview 3.0. Individuals with a 12-month mental disorder that was disabling or that had led to use of services in the previous 12 months were considered in need of care.
Results About six percent of the sample was defined as being in need of mental healthcare. Nearly half (48%) of these participants reported no formal healthcare use. In contrast, only 8% of the people with diabetes had reported no use of services for their physical condition. In total, 3.1% of the adult population had an unmet need for mental healthcare. About 13% of visits to formal health services were made by individuals without any mental morbidity
Conclusions There is a high unmet need for mental care in Europe, which may not be eliminated simply by reallocating existing healthcare resources.