As many as 121 million people all over the world are affected by depression. Depression can have an effect on an individual’s ability to work, maintain relationships, and have an overall negative impact on quality of life. Severe depression may lead to suicide and is the cause of 850,000 deaths annually.
Researchers have made a comparison with social conditions and the prevalence of depression in 18 countries throughout the world.
To be classed as having had a Major Depressive Episode an individual was required to meet 5 out of 9 criteria which included loss of pleasure or interest, sadness, feelings of low self worth or guilt, poor concentration, appetite and low energy and disturbed sleep.
According to in depth interviews with more than 89,000 people, the outcomes revealed that 15% of the inhabitants from countries with high income in comparison to 11% of the inhabitants from countries with low to middle income were more likely to become depressed over their life time with 5.5% experiencing depression during the past year. Major Depressive Episodes were greater in countries with high income, 28% in comparison to 20%, and were particularly high in the Netherlands, France and America at over 30%. China was the country having the lowest incidence of Major Depressive Episodes at 12% and the country with the highest incidence was India at almost 36%.
A number of factors were cross cultural, women were two times more likely to experience depression than men and a main contributing factor was loss of a partner, whether from separation, divorce or death. The age factor varied from country to country. Age of start of depression was nearly 2 years sooner in low income countries and the level of difficulty an individual had in areas of their life was more evident in individuals coming from high income countries.
The study shows that depression is a significant public health concern all over the world and is strongly associated with social conditions. Understanding the causes and patterns of depression will help worldwide initiatives in minimizing the impact of depression on lives as well as the burden on society.