Depression Rates on the Rise Worldwide

The World Health Organization World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative collaborated with researchers from 20 facilities to determine the worldwide scope of depression. Depression can severely debilitate a person, causing their relationships, careers, and overall quality of life to suffer drastically. Over 120 million people suffer with depression and it is responsible for 850,000 suicides each year. A person is diagnosed with a Major Depressive Episode (MDE) if they meet the criteria for the symptoms of depression, including lack of concentration or energy, overwhelming guilt or negative self-assessment, sadness, sleep or appetite disruption and general lack of interest in pleasurable activities.

The researchers interviewed nearly 90,000 people for the study and discovered that in high-income countries, including the United States, over five percent of the population had suffered a depressive episode within the previous 12 months, and almost one-sixth of the population were likely to experience the symptoms of depression at some point in their lives. The study also revealed that China had the lowest rates of depression, at only 12 percent, and the depression rates in India were the highest, with almost 36 percent of the country’s population reporting an MDE. The findings also showed that women were two times more likely to experience an MDE and factors such as death of a spouse or divorce increased the chance of developing depression. Evelyn Bromet, a professor from State University of New York at Stony Brook said, “This is the first study which uses a standardized method to compare depression and MDE across countries and cultures. We have shown that depression is a significant public-health concern across all regions of the world and is strongly linked to social conditions. Understanding the patterns and causes of depression can help global initiatives in reducing the impact of depression on individual lives and in reducing the burden to society.”

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • paula

    July 28th, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    depression can happen for the slightest of things.I saw the table of this study yesterday and I was happy that they not only computed true results based on depression but also on MDE because MDE is definitely a better indicator of the real numbers. Depression can happen fairly easily but an MDE happens theme something is really wrong.

  • Jeanne

    July 29th, 2011 at 4:34 AM

    If no where else they continue to rise in my own house. Have been without a job for a while now and it is harder and harder to make ends meet!

  • JARED

    July 29th, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    Depression comes when expected things don’t happen and if we miss out on something. I just think the main reason for growing depression all over is because our wants have become enormous. We want everything and when we don’t get it we become depressed.

    The basic feeling of containment is missing from our loves and it’s because of greed of wanting more and more.

  • James Wink

    July 30th, 2011 at 5:18 AM

    Having spent some time in China I think it is very hard to truly say what the depression rate is in that society. People in china are afraid to discuss mental issues and concerns for fear of government backlash.

    To be labeled in the chinese system as a person who has a mental issue will cause you to not be hired. To not have a job is a serious issue to someone in china. I would therefore assume that any medical data on mental conditions coming out of china would reflect some of the lowest concerns in the developed and developing world. Not because chinese society has the cure, but because chinese society stops the reporting of depression by peer pressure.

  • A.Donald

    July 30th, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    Basic human relations have seen a decline, the environment and everything natural has taken a beating, we use chemical and man-made things from the moment we wake up to the time we sleep, relationships have become more and more complicated, work pressure has only increased in the mad rush to do everything ASAP(!!!).No wonder depression rates are on a rise, its bound to happen due to the lifestyle that most of us follow.Talk to the folks in country side and observe their daily habits.Their depression rates are far lesser than us city and metro-folk!

  • Jon B

    July 30th, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    With the world the way that it is today it is absolutely no wonder that people are in greater numbers than ever losing hope for the future, for them and for others. Some get to a point where they feel like they have nothing to live for and that is such a sad state to be in.
    But life is not like that, and it is important to spread the message that there is always something to live for, even in the darkest of times. We need to get to a point where we can cherish the time that we have been goven and not to wish it away.

  • Gracie Calhoun

    August 13th, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    Why are so many people suffering from depression? We have to be doing something completely wrong in quite a handful of countries if that many people are depressed. So what are the causes and why do we seem to be unable to do anything about to prevent this occurrence? I’m sure poverty is a big factor in this rise.

  • Jen Harper

    August 13th, 2011 at 8:40 PM

    @Gracie, I believe that in most cases, depression can indeed be linked to money problems or relationship problems. However, some of these problems are brought on by the sufferer themselves. Spending more than you make and not cutting back early, or not nurturing your relationships and own self-developement may well end in depression. That’s down to your own actions or lack of them.

  • angela richards

    August 13th, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    I think a problem that increases our depression is our decreased levels of connectedness in real time with family and friends. We meet online, we talk online, we email, we text… we do not take the time as often to go visit them in their homes or meet up somewhere.

    While it may feel that you’re connecting with them and leading just as active a social life virtually when you do it all online, it’s a mere shadow of what it’s like meeting them face-to-face.

    To me it feels more superficial and that weaker connection doesn’t boost you the same way physical contact does. I can see how that could lead to depression not being helped, the way it is when you see your friends in the flesh.

  • Gill Kelly

    August 14th, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    There are a multitude of causes of depression and taking care of all of them , regardless of what country you live in, would require much action. An overhaul of current regulations and legislation to better support sufferers, more funding and staff devoted to its resolution, more research into the better management of it or even a cure, and increased access to mental health services and mental health professionals would be a start.

    What it comes down to is most politicians would prefer to tackle other issues that glean them more press coverage and airtime than depression. It just ain’t sexy enough for them or the mainstream media and their shortsightedness is our loss.

    What a wonderful world it would be if we could rid ourselves of it.

  • Glenda Stratton

    August 14th, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    @Jen Harper: I noticed that with my brother. He got a credit card, and six months months later? Six months! He was in debt he couldn’t afford to pay back. He went from a perfect record to being in debt in six months because he didn’t listen to my advice on how to be responsible with a credit card.

    He became very depressed by that and was so hard to live with that I hated visiting him. Financial strife is a significant cause of depression.

  • Kenneth Reed

    August 17th, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    @Glenda, and I can imagine what that advice was. “Don’t spend money that you don’t have in your bank” sounds like commonsense to me but folks fall into the trap of overspending far too easily. They’re the ones who wind up depressed over everything going wrong because of that.

    If they would stop being sucked in the advertising and believing they HAVE to have the latest TV or gadget or whatever, they would be happier. Looking for meaning in material objects alone is depressing by itself.

  • M.C. Armour

    August 17th, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    Money alone isn’t the issue. Some countries have basic needs that go unattended like sanitation or running water in remote rural communities. That leads to physical ill health as well as mental stress. Depression can be rooted in such deprivation too.

  • ra wa fu

    December 3rd, 2012 at 3:47 AM

    i think family is important ,people since 60’s have completely gone insane they did shit n left kids alone then those kids did to their n their kids result we have depressed extremely arrogant f’d up spoiled angry unhappy cause of lack of family n nice loving mother n fathers 2 look up to…that’s it kids don’t need much then they r happy adults so generations r happy why put shit like this people need 2 b sensitive 2 their kids n start loving properly all over again thats the cure!!!!@#$%^&*(n stop bitching on ur kids or abandoning them!!!!

  • ra wa fu

    December 3rd, 2012 at 3:51 AM

    people should take care of their kids i dont get it wat is in getting married or in love again n again n again n abandoning kids ready 2 love strangers but not ready 2 love owns kids really european american asian n whole world is f’d up n materialised f this world its disgrace 2 humanity n love

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