Summary: 91% of people say they would definitely want to take a simple test to analyze their risk of developing neurological diseases if they did.

Source: Norwegian Institute of Public Health

If you could, would you take a simple mental health test to determine your risk of developing mental illness? According to the Global Mental Health Survey, 91% of those asked.

We asked this question to more than 27,500 people in the LifeBrain Project’s Global Mental Health Survey. The study is led by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in collaboration with the University of Oslo.

The main findings are:

  • 91% of respondents would definitely or probably take a simple test to determine their risk of brain disease.
  • Although the disease cannot be prevented or cured, 86% do.

The findings were published in Frontiers in public health.

Slowing down brain disease

For most people (over 95 percent), the main reason they get a mental health screening is that they can slow the progression of brain disease by seeking professional help and changing their lifestyle if they are at risk.

“Although it is not always possible to delay or cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s, it is surprising that more people are willing to be tested for future mental illnesses. However, this finding shows that people strongly believe that lifestyle influences brain health, says Dr Rebecca Bru Carver, who led the study at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Test accuracy is important

Eight in ten believe brain health screenings provide reliable and accurate results. Today, aspects of your brain health can be tested with a variety of methods, including genetics, brain scans, blood tests, and cognitive tests.

For example, genetic tests can predict the risk of developing Huntington’s disease and some forms of Alzheimer’s disease, but otherwise, genetic tests for mental disorders are rare. There is no simple test to measure your overall mental health.

“Although simple mental health tests are not yet available, we see the rise of commercial genetic tests for many conditions, which have predictive power. Carver said this study shows there is a high public demand for mental health screenings, so it’s important for people to understand the limitations of such tests.

She believes it is important for health professionals to provide people with the necessary information and follow-up if these tests are available.

What is mental health?

The term mental health has been accepted in the last ten years. Good mental health is mental well-being and the ability to remember, learn, plan and concentrate.

Brain health is affected by various illnesses and diseases. One in three will develop a brain disease or disorder in their lifetime, such as dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, depression, anxiety or schizophrenia. Studies show that brain diseases can be prevented to some extent by diet, exercise and sleep.

This shows the brain and head
For most people (over 95 percent), the main reason they get a mental health screening is that they can slow the progression of brain disease by seeking professional help and changing their lifestyle if they are at risk. Image is in public domain.

“Many respondents were positive that they would change their lifestyle if they knew they were at risk of developing mental illness. However, we know from previous research that what people say and what they do can be two different things.

About the study

The mental health survey “Global Brain Health Survey” was carried out in cooperation with the University of Oslo as part of the European Union research project “Lifebrain” in the Horizon2020 program. The questionnaire was available in 14 languages ​​and the responses came from participants from 76 countries.

watch out

This shows vitamin pills

Participants in the study were asked to imagine a hypothetical brain health test that would tell them their risk of developing an undiagnosed brain disease. Such a test is not currently available.

The majority of participants were from the UK (37%), the Netherlands (25%) and Norway (13%). Most were over 40 (83%), female (71%) or had a university degree (71%).

43% of the participants were previously involved in mental health research, as more than half of the respondents were employed in research records. Many were interested in mental health and the sample is not representative of the general population.

So brain health research news

Author: Press office
Source: Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Contact: Press Office – Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Image: The image is in the public domain.

Preliminary study: Open Access.
People’s interest in mental health screening: findings from an international online cross-sectional survey” by Rebecca B. Carver et al. Frontiers in public health


People’s interest in mental health screening: findings from an international online cross-sectional survey

In the absence of mental disorders, mental health includes mental well-being and cognitive health. The past decade has seen an explosion of tests, insights and biology to predict various brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. In line with these current developments, we explored people’s willingness and reasons to be aware of their risk of developing a brain disease—or not—in a multi-lingual online survey. The study was part of the Global Brain Health Survey, open to the public from June 4, 2019 to August 31, 2020. Respondents were mostly recruited by think tanks and research organizations in Europe. 27,590 people were aged 18 or older and were predominantly female (71%), middle aged or older (>40 years, 83%) and highly educated (69%). Responses were analyzed to explore relationships between demographic variables and responses.

Results: We found a high public demand for mental health screening: over 91% would definitely get a mental health screening, or 86% would do so despite information about treatable or preventable diseases. The main reason for testing is the ability to respond if a person is found to be at risk for mental illness, such as changing lifestyle, counseling or starting treatment. Higher demand for mental health screening was found among men, respondents with lower educational levels, and those with lower self-reported cognitive health.

Summary: Increased public interest in brain health and increasing commercial challenges to market brain health testing in some segments of society may put pressure on public health systems to inform the public about mental health testing in the coming years.

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