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Press Release

Press release

New report highlights levels of psychological distress in the Irish population

8 November 2007

The Health Research Board will publish a new report on the state of Irish people?s psychological health today. The report is based on a survey which shows that one in every seven people reported that they had experienced a mental, nervous or emotional problem in the past year. Women are more likely than men to report having such problems, and almost one in ten people have spoken to their GP specifically about their mental health in the last year.

The Health Research Board will publish a new report on the state of Irish people?s psychological health today. The report is based on a survey which shows that one in every seven people reported that they had experienced a mental, nervous or emotional problem in the past year. Women are more likely than men to report having such problems, and almost one in ten people have spoken to their GP specifically about their mental health in the last year.

The survey was conducted1 over the phone and with a nationally representative random sample of 2,711 adults, aged 18 years and over and living in private households. Half of the participants were female, two out of three were under fifty years of age and 14% were over 65 years of age.

?This study is starting to give us a better picture of the extent of psychological distress among Irish people', says Dr Donna Tedstone Doherty, Senior Researcher at the HRB. ?In general, the survey found that more than eight out of 10 people report ?good? or ?very good? mental health, physical health and quality of life, but there are still a significant number of people who experience mental or emotional problems. It is important that this fact is recognised and acknowledged by society so that informal and formal supports required by people experiencing distress are developed?.

The findings showed that females reported a greater willingness to disclose distressing information than men, but, as people get older, they reported less willingness to ?open up? about such issues.

?In the majority of cases, GPs are currently the first formal point of call for many people with mental health problems. This important role of the GP and primary care network in the assessment and treatment of mental health problems needs recognition', says Dr Doherty. ?We need to increase the range of mental health professionals, such as counsellors and psychologists, within the primary care network who can be accessed by GPs. There is also a real need to develop better links between primary and secondary care for mental health so that there is continuity of care for people who need specialised mental health services. All of these issues have been highlighted in the national strategy for Mental Health - A Vision for Change, 2006', explains Dr Doherty.

?This report provides a strong baseline against which we can identify and monitor changes every two years. Based on our findings, we would also suggest that a three level approach is taken to support people experiencing psychological distress', says Dr Doherty. ?The first is at an individual level; people need to recognise and acknowledge that the problem of psychological distress is a reality in Irish society. The second is at an interpersonal level; people experiencing psychological distress need to use and develop informal supports such as family or friends. The third is at a societal level; efforts must be made to develop community supports, create health promotion and awareness programmes to help address the stigma associated with mental health problems and promote ways to foster better mental health', she concludes.

A full copy of the HRB Research Series 2 report, HRB National Psychological Well-being and Distress Survey: Baseline Results, is available in the publications section of the HRB website at www.hrb.ie/publications. Alternatively, for a hard copy of the report, please contact Fiona Bannon by emailing fbannon@hrb.ie or by phoning +353 1 2345148.

1 The data were collected as part of an add-on module to the ESRI Consumer Survey.

For more information contact:
Gillian Markey, Communications Manager
Health Research Board
m 00353 87 2288514
t 00353 1 2345103
e gmarkey(at)hrb.ie

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