By Hristo Valev
Affective disorders are psychiatric disorders, also called mood disorders, which are characterized by sudden mood swings, which can last from a few weeks to months. People affected will usually experience at least one episode in their lifetime. Currently there is no cure for affective disorders, with patients having to rely on medication and different management therapies.
Roughly 9,5% of the population in the US has been diagnosed with a mood disorder. Those include depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. Slightly more than 4% of the world population is diagnosed with depression. Statistics state that 30%-40% of adults will experience at least one major depressive episode in their lifetimes, whether they are diagnosed with it or not.
The tendency is for an increase of affective disorders in the population over the next years. It is of utmost importance for progress to be made in effective treatment and management in order to combat this rising challenge to health institutions. However, little is known to the wide public of the direct and indirect social and economic costs associated with those disorders.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the cost of mental illnesses is $2.5 trillion and projected to rise to $6 trillion in 2030. This cost can be broken down in medication, medical staff costs and hospital care, where two thirds of those are attributed to productivity loss due to disability. Productivity is also affected even when people suffer from a mild depression, but still go about their day. Studies show that up to 5.6 hours are lost per week by people suffering from depression. The biggest health-care related costs are attributed to hospitalizations.
During a depressive episode the usual length stay of inpatients with a primary diagnosis of depression is 6.6 days compared to 5 days for those hospitalized for other reasons. People suffering from the bipolar disorder, when hospitalized, stay on average 32.4 days in hospitals when experiencing an episode. In comparison the costs for providing medication for managing affective disorders are negligible.
The social costs of suffering from a mental disorder are often unseen and are a by-product of the cultural and social environment.
Statistics from WHO state that up to 90% of people suffering from depression as well as 76% to 85%of people diagnosed with a mood disorder in low and middle-income countries receive no proper care.[11, 10] The Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY) Index measures how debilitating a disease or disability is and tries to quantify those with a numerical value between 0 and 1. Minor, moderate and severe depressive episodes for example are rated as 0.14, 0.35 and 0.76 respectively.
To put things in perspective having an amputated arm or leg below the knee are weighted with 0.308 and 0.3. The bipolar disorder for example is categorized in the same weight group as mental retardation and rated in the range of 0.36-0.50. Affective disorders are also regarded as a factor in developing other health conditions such as heart diseases, obesity and others.[9, 8]
Clearly affective disorders are part of our societies and play directly or indirectly an important role in our lives. The worrying trend, which projects that the proportion of people affected by affective disorders will increase, compels us to put more effort into understanding them and finding out a way to manage them better.
The AffecTech project launched in 2017 has the ambitious aim to research the processes related to affective disorders and develop methods and technologies, which can help people manage their afflictions better. AffecTech is established with support from the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network funded by European Commission H2020. AffecTech is also committed to raising awareness about mental health issues, and is supporting WHO’s World Mental Health Day this year.
About the author
AffecTech Early Stage Researcher (ESR) Hristo Valev (pictured) is a computer science graduate from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. He specialised in Antropomatics and Cognitive Systems. His research interests are in human-machine interactions, medical informatics and machine learning. He has been awarded the Marie-Curie Fellowship and is currently a PhD candidate at Lancaster University, while working at Philips Research in Eindhoven.
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