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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Asia-Pacific countries struggle to integrate mentally ill into society, EIU report says

  • New Zealand and Australia get highest scores in new index measuring integration
  • In high–income Asian countries (Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) services for the mentally ill are relatively under-developed and under-staffed
  • A rural-urban divide in care exists even in rich countries
  • Lack of data hampers policymaking and standardisation of treatment

Countries across Asia-Pacific are giving more attention to mental illness but much remains to be done to achieve the ideal of community-based care and integration, according to Mental Health and Integration, a study published today (October 10th) by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The report, sponsored by Janssen Asia Pacific, is based on a benchmarking index comparing 15 Asian economies [1].   

New Zealand and Australia perform well because of their long history of consistent efforts to implement community-based care, which has resulted in not only the necessary infrastructure, practice and personnel but also a marked reduction in stigma against those living with mental illness. Both countries, however, are still working on weaknesses, such as access to care for socially-marginalised groups and rural dwellers.

High-income countries (Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) have been trying to implement community-based provision for those living with mental illness but such services are still relatively under-developed and under-staffed. Japan and South Korea, for example, still have high levels of institutionalisation.

There is a distinct rural-urban divide in terms of service provision for those suffering from mental illness, even in wealthier countries. In Australia, for example, the number of psychiatrists per capita outside cities is 33% of the figure for major urban areas and per capita mental health spending in the most remote areas is just 11% of that in major cities, even though the prevalence of mental illness is the same.

A lack of consistent data on mental illness discourages policy makers from taking action and also prevents standardisation of treatment. Across much of Southeast Asia, for example, surveys measuring prevalence of depression and anxiety cover only about 15% of the population, and in South Asia only about 5%.

Gareth Nicholson, the editor of the report, said:

“Countries across Asia Pacific are at markedly different stages in transforming from institutionalisation to providing the care, services and environment necessary for integrating people living with mental illness into the community. Although there are signs of increased commitment from regional governments to the goal of integrated mental health service provision, significant gaps remain in many places between policy interest and lack of system capacity to deliver the care needed.”

View results and download report, available in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean


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Notes to editors 

About the report

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) undertook a study aimed at assessing the degree of commitment of 15 countries within the Asia-Pacific region to integrating those with mental illness into their communities. The research was commissioned and funded by Janssen Asia Pacific. This report focuses on the results of this benchmarking study, called the Asia-Pacific Mental Health Integration Index. A full description of the Index methodology appears in the Appendix to the report.

Overview of Index results:


About the Economist Intelligence Unit

The Economist Intelligence Unit is the business-to-business arm of The Economist Group, which publishes The Economist newspaper. The Economist Intelligence Unit helps executives make better decisions by providing timely, reliable and impartial analysis on worldwide market trends and business strategies. More information can be found at:

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[1] Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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