General Article Misquoted and misunderstood: have ‘one in four’ people really had a mental health problem?

Topic Selected: Mental Health
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What do a government department, a charity, a Royal College and a journal paper all have in common?


By Joseph O’Leary


They’ve all quoted the same, widely used statistic: one in four people have experienced a mental health problem. And they’ve all sourced the figure to the same place: the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey.

Except they don’t all say the same thing:

  • Department of Health: ‘At least one in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our life.’
  • Mental Health Foundation: ‘1 in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year.’
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists: ‘Almost one in four British adults… experience a diagnosable mental health problem at any given time.’
  • In the British Medical Journal: ’In 2007 the Annual Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) estimated a UK prevalence of 23% in the past week.’

We spoke to the authors of the 2007 study to find out why there might be such stark differences in interp...

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