The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistical measuring tool that seeks to track positive human development according to three factors: life expectancy, education, and per capita income. The higher the three factors rank, the better the human development among the people being studied. With that knowledge, it is interesting to note the results of a recent research project that has established a link between psychiatry and human development.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Turku in Finland, compared the HDI rankings of 17 countries from Europe and Asia. The three countries with the highest HDI rankings – Norway, Switzerland, and Finland – also boast a high number of psychiatrists.
A Focus on Childhood Mental Health
For the record, the study was focused on childhood mental health as an indicator of future human development. As such, researchers zeroed in on the ratio of child and adolescent psychiatrists per capita. Data reveals that Norway, Switzerland, and Finland each have a ratio of roughly one psychiatrist for every 2,200 children under the age of 14. By comparison, Lithuania’s ratio was one per 7,300 children while Russia came in at one per 18,800 children.
It’s clear that the three European countries topping the list pay more attention to childhood mental health. It is clear that they have more psychiatrists meeting the demands of their adolescent populations. But how does that relate to the HDI? More importantly, does the link established by the research really mean anything?
Social Change and Mental Health
According to researchers, the link between psychiatry and the HDI goes beyond the three main factors the index measures. Those limited factors, by the way, are the HDI’s Achilles’ heel. The researchers say that there are other factors that have to be considered in human development, factors that relate directly to childhood and adolescent psychiatry.
As an example, the researchers cited how social change can have a negative impact on the mental health of children. If social change is not addressed through proper care, children can grow up maladjusted and unable to cope with the world in which they live. Any large-scale observance of such a scenario would obviously impact the HDI.
In short, researchers have determined that good mental health is critical to human development. And as far as that goes, they are convinced that access to psychiatric care – especially among children and adolescents – is key to good mental health. They are advocating for more child and adolescent psychiatrists throughout Asia as well as underdeveloped nations where ratios could be as low as one psychiatrist for every 1 million people.
What It Means to Us
The Swiss research is certainly fascinating in giving us a snapshot of what child and adolescent psychiatry looks like on a global scale. What it means to us here in the U.S. is another matter altogether. If we truly believe that mental health contributes to positive human development, then we have our own shortcomings to deal with.
Like every other area of medicine, there aren’t enough psychiatrist to fill all the open psychiatry jobs. There are not enough locums to plug all the staffing holes. There aren’t enough young people entering the medical profession in general, and even fewer being steered toward psychiatry. All that would need to change.
On the other hand, if we don’t believe psychiatry affects human development to such a strong degree, we can continue as is. We would still need an army of new psychiatrist to meet demand, but it would not be a pressing issue for the future development of our country. What do you think?