The annual World Development Report which the World Bank produces has for the first time focused upon health issues. Central to its 1993 report Investing in Health was an analysis of the “global burden of disease”, addressing both mortality and morbidity. Previous attempts to prioritise health problems on a worldwide scale have focused on mortality, so common mental disorders have not appeared to be significant. The method of measuring the burden of disease described here has highlighted neuropsychiatric disorders, particularly depression, which accounts for around 30% of neuropsychiatric disorders. Neuropsychiatric diseases account for 5.7% of the total burden of disease for women in the developing world, and rank fifth in this respect. In the rest of the world, they account for 13.3% of the total burden of disease for women, and rank third. Prioritising health interventions is crucial given the scarce resources available. Sufficient evidence now exists to warrant greater emphasis on common mental disorders.