Mental health disorders constitute a public health issue because of their frequency, the distress and disability they cause, and the impact on the physical and social health of individuals and those around them.
The Health Interview Surveys reveal that anxiety and depression represent the most common mental health disorders. In 2018, around one in ten people had an anxiety (comparable to 2013) or a depressive disorder (slight decrease compared to 2013). Following the COVID-19 crisis, mental health deteriorated. In March 2022, around one in four people presented an anxiety disorder and/or a depressive disorder.
Suicide is an important problem for public health in Belgium. Suicidal thoughts and attempts are increasing during the COVID-19 crisis. Suicide is one of the main causes of death among young people in Belgium. It is higher in men than in women. The mortality rate due to suicide is particularly high in Belgium compared to other EU-15 countries.
While the consumption of sedatives (sleeping pills or tranquilizers) is decreasing since 2008, the consumption of antidepressants continues to increase.
Social inequalities are present, with more people of the lower educational level suffering from mental health disorders. Mental health indicators indicate a better situation in the Flemish region.
For adolescents, the latest UNICEF estimates for 2022 indicate that over 16.3% of young people aged 10 to 19 in Belgium are diagnosed with a mental disorder. These estimates are probably the tip of the iceberg, as many children go undiagnosed, and the COVID-19 pandemic has raised immense concerns about the well-being of young people. The 2018 HBSC surveys reveal that the mental health of adolescents in Belgium deteriorates with age. Girls and teenagers from less affluent families are all the more exposed to mental health problems; they tend to consider themselves in poorer health, report more symptoms, and be less satisfied with their lives than boys and teenagers from more affluent families.