KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 — As many as 33,602 men in Malaysia have been recorded to have mental health issues compared to women who numbered 22,496 as of February this year, according to data from the Disabled Persons Information System.

Department of Social Welfare (JKM) director-general Norazman Othman said 56,098 people across all demographic groups have been registered as having mental disabilities as of February, national newspaper Utusan Malaysia reported today.

He attributed the rise in registration of mentally disabled people to be driven by awareness of the facilities and privileges provided by the government for the group, among other factors.

“The increase is also because there are individuals who have just been confirmed by medical experts as disabled,” he was quoted as saying.

Among others, JKM classifies those with dementia in Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as mentally disabled.

Other findings included:

• 20,584 people from the 46-59 age group suffer from mental disabilities

• 14,468 people from the 36-45 age group suffer from mental disabilities

• 12, 764 people above 60 years old suffer from mental disabilities

• Malays made up the highest number of those with mental health conditions with 30,268 followed by ethnic Chinese (14,853), ethnic Indians (4,845), Sabah and Sarawak Bumiputera (3,431), other races (2,517) and the Orang Asli in peninsular Malaysia (184).

Nonetheless, the fraction of those suffering from mental disabilities only made up almost 8 per cent of the total 712,570 people registered as disabled with JKM as of May 31 this year.

Within five months, the total registration of disabled persons across all categories increased by 3.06 per cent — which means 21,143 people were registered to have a disability from December 31, 2023, to May 31, this year.

The highest number of registered disabilities came from the learning disability category with 274,783 people, followed by physical disabilities (240,159), visual disabilities (60,342) and mental disabilities.

According to the JKM website, learning disabilities include Down syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, dyslexia, and global developmental delay, among others.

Utusan Malaysia also reported public health physician and epidemiologist Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar saying that the increase in the number of disabled people is due to several factors which include the parent’s fertility.

“Parents’ level of fertility can affect the quality of the offspring born, besides malnutrition or an unsuitable eating style during pregnancy.

“For the mentally disabled, it can be genetically inherited or linked to the surrounding environment that may cause a person to become mentally disabled,” he was quoted as saying.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia public health expert Professor Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh was also reported saying that apart from the age of the parents, other factors that can cause unhealthy births include bacterial infections, having given birth prematurely and experiencing severe underweight during pregnancy.