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Mental health service availability and delivery at the global level: an analysis by countries’ income level from WHO's Mental Health Atlas 2014

  • A. Lora (a1), F. Hanna (a2) and D. Chisholm (a2)



The World Health Organization (WHO)’s Mental Health Atlas series has established itself as the single most comprehensive and most widely used source of information on the global mental health situation. The data derived from the latest Mental Health Atlas survey carried out in 2014 describes the availability and delivery of mental health services in the WHO's Member States, focussing on differences by country's income level.


The data contained in this paper are mainly derived from questions relating to mental health service availability and uptake, as well as on financial and human resources for mental health. Results are presented as median values and analysed by World Bank income group. Interquartile ranges are also provided as measures of statistical dispersion.


In total, 171 out of WHO's 194 Member States were able to at least partially complete the Atlas questionnaire. The results highlight a wide gap between high and low-medium income countries in a number of areas: for example, high-income countries have 20 times more beds in community-based inpatient units and 30 times more admissions; the rate of patients cared by outpatient facilities is 40 times higher; and there are 66 times more community outpatient contacts and 15 times more mental health staff at outpatient level. Overall resources for mental health are not distributed efficiently: globally about 60% of financial resources and over two-thirds of all available mental health staff are concentrated in mental hospitals, which serve only a small proportion of patients. Results indicate that outpatient care is the only effective means of increasing the coverage for mental disorders and is expanding, but it is strongly influenced by country income level. Two elements of the network of mental health facilities are particularly scarce in low- and middle-income countries: day treatment facilities and community residential facilities.


The WHO Mental Health Atlas 2014 survey provides basic mental health information at the level of WHO's Member States, concerning mental health resources and activities. Atlas promotes the use of information, usually underestimated not only in low- and middle-income countries but also in high-income countries. Information is needed not only for monitoring the scaling up of the mental health system at country level, but also for improving transparency and accountability for users, families and the public.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: A. Lora, Department of Mental Health, Lecco Hospital, Lecco, Italy. (Email:


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Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences
  • ISSN: 2045-7960
  • EISSN: 2045-7979
  • URL: /core/journals/epidemiology-and-psychiatric-sciences
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