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Mental health in Belgium - Statistics & Facts

The prevalence of depression and anxiety in the Belgian population was striking in 2020. However, this is to be considered in the context of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The social restrictions that came with such a crisis are bound to have impacted the mental health of the Belgian population. The lockdown in Belgium could therefore play a key role in the increase in anxiety and depression.

In 2020, an estimated 16 percent of the Belgian population suffered from a form of depressive disorder and 20 percent suffered from a generalized anxiety disorder. Furthermore, the prevalence of depressive and anxiety disorders increased significantly in recent years. Depressive disorders can take multiple forms, ranging from mild to severe depression, and result in various symptoms, mainly characterized by a depressive mood and loss of pleasure or interest in everyday life activities. Generalized anxiety, on the other hand, is characterized by persistent and excessive worry. From a regional perspective, the prevalence of both depressive and anxiety disorders was lower in Flanders and was at its highest in the region of Wallonia.

According to data from 2018, roughly 75 percent of patient complaints made to a mental health practitioner revolved around either depression, anxiety, or stress. To treat depression or anxiety disorders, some medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are often prescribed by psychiatrists or general practitioners. Although psychotherapy is mostly performed by psychologists and psychiatrists, only psychiatrists can prescribe medication in Belgium. In the country, there were under 2 thousand psychiatrists for over 14 thousand psychologists. In 2018, it was estimated that 7.6 percent of the Belgian population consumed antidepressants, while over 12 percent of Belgians consumed sleeping pills or tranquilizers. Ultimately, Belgians consumed more antidepressants than ever before.

Another indicator of a population’s mental health can be found in the country’s suicide rate. Although this indicator is hard to measure and therefore questionable, in 2018, over 4 percent of Belgians had attempted suicide at least once in their life and 14 percent of Belgians declared to have had suicidal thoughts. Ultimately, mental health is not limited to suicide figures nor depressive or anxiety disorders. Although not seeking professional advice can have negative consequences, in 2018, only 14 percent of Belgians stated to have consulted a mental healthcare provider. Mental health problems are common in the country and, therefore, improved access to mental healthcare is essential.

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Mental health in Belgium

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