Background: This paper reports the findings of an analytical comparison of several macro indicators collected routinely from institutional sources in Europe. Methods: We carried out a review of macro indicators capable of providing a synthetic description of mental health status and the availability of psychiatric care in European countries. These were collected routinely from sources such as WHO, OECD, EUROSTAT, and IMS. The evaluation of temporal trends in each nation permits subsequent comparisons between countries. Results: In all European countries, a decreased trend of suicides was observed in the period 1980-2000, with the exception of Ireland and (partially) of Spain. In Ireland, the increased trend was particularly strong, with a high risk in young and adult males. Portugal and Greece had respectively the highest and the lowest rates of undetermined causes of death. Most countries that were high consumers of alcohol in the initial period of observation had a rate above the national mean until 1980, after which consumption decreased. Most nations that were low consumers in 1960 had rates below the mean until 1980, when the rates progressively increased. However, a general decrease of alcohol-related deaths was apparent in all countries. Mortality associated with mental disorder increased, most clearly during the mid 1980s. The number of psychiatrists per 100,000 inhabitants ranged from 3.6 in Spain to 17.5 in Finland; of child psychiatrists, from 0.9 in Germany to 5.1 in Portugal. Psychiatric beds ranged from 0.4 per 1,000 inhabitants in Italy and Spain to 1.3 in Ireland. Nine countries showed a trend towards a reduction in psychiatric beds, whilst in a further five countries no change was observed. Rates of long-stay patients varied from 9.5 in the UK to 84 in Belgium, with a generally decreasing trend. The use of outpatient facilities differed markedly between countries, although there was a general increase over time. Official data were scarce in relation to the sale of psychotropic drugs. IMS data indicated increasing consumption in all European countries for antidepressant and antipsychotic medication. Conclusions: The official data resources available for European countries seem to indicate some discrepancies, probably relating to methods of recording. Better co-ordination in the collection of data about mental health status in the European Union and an improvement of the quality in available services is needed.
- Macro indicators
- Mental health care