The burden of mental health-related mortality in the Baltic States in 2007-2018
BMC Public Health , 22:1776, 1–11 (2022)
Background: The problem of underestimating the burden of mental health-related mortality is widely discussed in the public health literature. Relevant scientific evidence from societies experiencing the largest burden of mental health mortality is important for better understanding global and national mental health challenges and improving policies. Three Baltic States - Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia - are countries in the Central and Eastern European region that experienced post-soviet transition trauma and showed among the highest suicide and alcohol-related mortality rates in Europe. This study aimed to examine the change in the burden of mental health-related mortality in three Baltic States in the context of consistent growth in life expectancy in 2007-2018.
Methods: We calculated age-standardized years of life lost due to specific mental health-related causes of death in three Baltic countries from 2007 to 2018. Four mental health-related causes of death groups were analyzed: (i) all mental and behavioural disorders; (ii) intentional self-harm; (iii) main substance use-related causes of death; and (iv) external causes of death. The number of deaths came from the WHO Mortality Database; population exposures were extracted from the Human Mortality Database.
Results: We found that the proportion of age-standardized years of life lost due to mental disorders was relatively low in all three countries. It varied from 0.2% for females in Lithuania in 2009 to 2.4% for males in Estonia in 2007. However, the proportion of age-standardized years of life lost from self-harm and substance use remained high. In 2018, the proportion of age-standardized years of life lost due to self-harm was highest among males in Lithuania (4.1%) while the highest proportion due to substance use-related causes of death was among males in Estonia (7.3%).
Conclusions: Our findings indicate that the burden of mental health-related mortality remained high and showed divergent temporal changes across the three countries. In the context of the Baltic States and other post-soviet countries, fractions of various external causes of death and alcohol-related causes of death should be considered in assessing the total burden of mental health-related mortality.
Keywords: Baltic Countries, dependency burden, expectation of life at birth, mental health