Mental Health in Malta Pt 2: The Facts Behind The Story

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

In Part 1 of this article, I shared the reviews of the findings of my journey towards having a clear picture of the state of mental health in Malta. In Part 2 I will provide the facts of on which Part 1 is based on free from reviews or opinions.


Suicide and Mortality Rates


I started by looking at figures relating to mortality and suicide. In a parliamentary question about suicide rates, the following figures and rates were provided (Bonnici, 2020). What is interesting is that men mortality rates outweigh women.

Suicide Rates in Malta
Suicide Rates in Malta (Bonnici, J., 2020)

Apart from that, the strategy outlines that “4.2% of deaths in Malta are attributed to mental health and behavioural disorders.”The document also provides a trend line for mortality rates related to suicide and self-harm (Ministry of Health, 2019).


Figures For People In Treatment


Below is a list of disorders and numbers related to how many people were in treatment in 2017. The total people is 41,200, 8% of the population.


Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are two key issues that were looked at in the European Health International Surveys. Anxiety seems to affect 8% of the population and depression seems to affect 7% of the population (Ministry of Health, 2019). Here we also note that although females report suffering more depression and anxiety, female suicide rates are much lower.

Mental health issues seem to be affecting people with lower education and people who are no longer in relationships (Ministry of Health, 2019). With education, it would be interesting to explore whether it is education that makes people less prone to anxiety/depression or whether it is the emotional resilience that makes people better able to succeed in their education.


Looking at Google Trends we have an increased rate of anxiety over the past 10 years. Some dates that are notable are June 2008 (potentially linked to 2008 crisis), November 2019 (potentially linked to Political Crisis of 2019) and March/May 2020 (potentially linked to Covid-19 of 2020).


Google Trends For Mental Health Malta
Google Trends For Mental Health Malta

Mental Health Affecting Adolescents & Children


Apart from information on Adolescents, I tried to also lookup information regarding younger children. At the time of writing, I could not find substantial information on this matter.

Loneliness

In a study on loneliness done by the Faculty of Social Wellbeing, they found that 46% of Maltese consider themselves as moderately lonely. Ages of 11 to 19, those who tend to be more social, had 1 in every 3 persons moderately lonely (Clark, M., Azzopardi, A., Bonnici, J., 2019).

Loneliness Malta
Source: The Prevalence of Loneliness in Malta. Faculty of Social Wellbeing

Obesity & Cancer

There are some issues I wanted to look at that are not 100% linked to mental health but it would be good to look at the health of the population. One of the biggies in this is cancer, which accounts for 27% of deaths according to the National Cancer Platform. A full 30% are linked to diet (Cocks, 2019). I cannot help but link this with the rate of obesity in Malta, where according to a survey of PwC 25% of Malta’s population is obesity (PwC, 2017).

Obesity Rates Malta
Source: PwC 2017

This is an increase from 23% in 2008, which was the highest rate in Europe according to the European Health International Survey (Calleja, 2016)

Drugs and Alcohol


Other interesting facts that I came around is that the preference for taking Cannabis Drugs. Alcohol was slightly higher in Malta than the EU average (Ministry of Health, 2019)

Material Poverty

According to Eurostat, 20% of people living in Malta are under the risk of material poverty and social exclusion (Eurostat, 2018) with 3% in severe material poverty (Caruana, 2019).


Source: Times of Malta citing Eurostat


Stress

It is interesting that as of the date of writing, I found very little in terms of stress at work. In his thesis, Andrew Camilleri found that in Malta stress is related to low job satisfaction, unhealthy eating patterns, lack of sleep, low safe workplaces and high absenteeism (Camilleri, 2015).


Permanent Secretary Galea, at the Impact assessment of mental health on employment for policy development, said that unemployment could be a cause for mental health. The research he quotes says that Malta has the highest rate of depression, anxiety and stress amongst workers at 29.3% when the EU average is 17.6 per cent (Said, 2011). It would be interesting to see how these figures fared when there were the lowest unemployment rates in 2016 to 2018 and during the Covid-19 of 2020.


Culture

As a context to the study, I wanted to look at the culture of the Maltese population. I used Hofstede Cultural Dimensions, a public tool to assess cultures. Using the one for Malta one can immediately notice that uncertainty avoidance in our culture is exceptionally high (Holfstede Insights, 2020).



Culture Scores Malta
Source: Holfstede Insights

References


Bonnici, J. (2020, April 21). Almost 90% Of All Suicides In Malta Are Men, New Figures Show. Retrieved from Lovin Malta: https://lovinmalta.com/news/almost-90-of-all-suicides-in-malta-are-men-new-figures-show/


Calleja, C. G. (2016, September). Running an international survey in a small country: challenges and opportunities. Public Health Panorama, 2(3), pp. 249-400.

Camilleri, A. (2015). The Effects of Work Stress on the Health and Wellbeing of the Individual. The University of Malta.


Caruana, C. (2019, October 17). Almost 90,000 people at risk of poverty, according to EU data. Retrieved from timesofmalta.com: https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/almost-90000-people-at-risk-of-poverty-according-to-eu-data.742761


Clark, M., Azzopardi. A. Bonnici J., (2019). The Prevalence of Loneliness in Malta. Faculty of Social Wellbeing, University of Malta.


Cocks, J. (2019, February 4). Cancer kills more than one in four in Malta: 30-35% of deaths linked to diet. Retrieved from timesofmalt.com: https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/more-than-a-fourth-of-deaths-in-malta-from-cancer.701053


Eurostat. (2018). At risk of poverty or social exclusion in Malta. Retrieved from Eurostat: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/news/themes-in-the-spotlight/poverty-day-2019


Holfstede Insights. (2020, August 21). Compare Countries. Retrieved from Holfstede Insights: https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/


Ministry of Health. (2019). A Mental Health Strategy For Malta 2020 - 2030.

PwC. (2017). Weighing the Costs of Obesity in Malta.


Said, M. (2011, January 20). Maltese workers amongst highest in EU suffering from work stress. Retrieved from Malta Today#: https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/8121/maltese-workers-amongst-highest-in-eu-suffering-from-work-stress#.X0AHQ9wzbtQ

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