The Numbers On Worldwide Depression

Writer Andrew Solomon suggested in a lecture he did on the subject that depression is comparative. That is, if you have a really lovely life but feel miserable all the time, you consider yourself depressed and head out to find treatment. But if you have a perfectly awful life and feel miserable all the time, then the way you feel is commensurate with your life so it doesn’t occur to you to think it might be treatable.

He makes a valid point. And if he’s right (we suspect he is), then there’s a large proportion of the population unaccounted for in even the most up to date statistics on depression. He goes on to talk about how terrible the current treatments for depression are.

On the subject of treatment, we’re optimistic about the future. Neuroscientists are already doing amazing research that could have a very positive influence on the treatment of depression in the next ten years.

That change can’t come soon enough. However you choose to look at it, depression is an enormous problem. The global impact of this illness is astonishing.

Here are the cold, hard facts…

IMG - 350 million worldwide



Globally, more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
IMG - 1 million suicides

Almost 1 million lives are lost yearly due to suicide, which translates to 3000 suicide deaths every day. For every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may attempt to end his or her life.

According to the World Health Organization, unipolar depressive disorders were ranked as the third leading cause of the global burden of disease in 2004 and will move into the first place by 2030.

The World Mental Health Survey conducted in 17 countries found that on average about 1 in 20 people reported having an episode of depression in the previous year.

IMG - Higher Burden With WomenWhile depression is the leading cause of disability for both males and females, the burden of depression is 50% higher for females than males. In fact, depression is the leading cause of disease burden for women in both high-income and low- and middle-income countries.

Despite the known effectiveness of treatment for depression, the majority of people in need do not receive it. Where data is available, this is globally fewer than 50%, but fewer than 30% for most regions and even less than 10% in some countries. Barriers to effective care include the lack of resources, lack of trained providers, and the social stigma associated with mental disorders.

Lifetime prevalence rates range from approximately 3 percent in Japan to 16.9 percent in the United States, with most countries falling somewhere between 8 to 12 percent.

There are only 26 psychiatrists for approximately 80 million inhabitants of Ethiopia.

By 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of world disability and by 2030, it is expected to be the largest contributor to disease burden.

60-80% of all depression cases can be treated effectively with brief, structured forms of psychotherapy and antidepressant medications.

The Middle East and North Africa suffer the world’s highest depression rates.

The most depressed country is Afghanistan, where more than 20 percent suffer from the disorder, while the least depressed is Japan, with less than 2.5 percent.

Major Depressive Episodes (MDE) are particularly elevated (over 30%) in France, the Netherlands and America.

About 11 percent of American adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18.

Between 1 in 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people in the United Kingdom deliberately self-harm.

In the UK, more than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood. Less than half of those were treated appropriately at the time.


In Australia, one in every five adolescents are likely to experience a diagnosable depressive episode by the age of 18.

IMG - Paediatricians


46% of paediatricians lack confidence in their skills to recognise depression.

Currently, there are over 50,000 children and adolescents taking antidepressants in the UK, some as young as two years old.




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