Register-based metrics of years lived with disability associated with mental and substance use disorders: a register-based cohort study in Denmark

Lancet Psychiatry. 2021 Apr;8(4):310-319. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(21)00029-8.


Background: Mental disorders account for a substantial proportion of the years lived with disability (YLDs) globally. These estimates have generally been calculated top down based on summary statistics. The aim for this study was to calculate YLDs and a novel related measure, Health Loss Proportion (HeLP), for 18 mental and substance use disorders, based on person-level register data (bottom up).

Methods: A cohort of 6 989 627 Danish residents (5·9% had a diagnosis of a mental or substance use disorder registered in the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register) was investigated. YLDs (the duration of disease multiplied by a disability weight) were calculated for the disorder of interest and for comorbid mental and substance use disorders. HeLPs were estimated as YLDs associated with an index disorder and comorbid mental and substance use disorders divided by person-years at risk in persons with the index disorder. All analyses were adjusted for mental and substance use comorbidity using a multiplicative model of disability weights.

Findings: Major depressive disorder was the most prevalent disorder, although schizophrenia was the leading cause of YLDs in both sexes combined (YLDs 273·3 [95 % CI 232·3-313·6] per 100 000 person-years). People diagnosed with schizophrenia lost the equivalent of 73% (63-83%) of healthy life per year due to mental and substance use disorders, the largest HeLP of all mental and substance use disorders. Comorbidity of mental and substance use disorders accounted for 69-83% of HeLPs in people with either cannabis use disorders, other drug use disorder and ADHD. By contrast, comorbidity explained 11-23% of the HeLPs in people with autism spectrum disorders, conduct disorder, and schizophrenia.

Interpretation: Substantial variation in disability was observed across age, sex, and disorders. The new HeLP metric provides novel details of the contribution of comorbidity to the disability associated with mental and substance use disorders.

Funding: The Danish National Research Foundation, Queensland Government Department of Health, European Union's Horizon 2020, Lundbeck Foundation, Stanley Medical Research Institute.

Translation: For the Danish translation of the abstract see Supplementary Materials section.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Comorbidity
  • Cost of Illness
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years*
  • Registries
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult