More than 300 million people across the world have been affected by depression, says a report from the World Health Organization (WHO), which is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life. Especially when long-lasting and with moderate or severe intensity, depression may become a serious health condition.
Depression is a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration.
Depression can be long-lasting or recurrent, substantially impairing an individual’s ability to function at work or school or cope with daily life. At its most severe, depression can lead to suicide. When mild, people can be treated without medicines but when depression is moderate or severe they may need medication and professional talking treatments.
It is a disorder that can be reliably diagnosed and treated by non-specialists as part of primary health care. Specialist care is needed for a small proportion of individuals with complicated depression or those who do not respond to first-line treatments.
WHO ranks depression as the single largest contributor to global disability (7.5 percent of all years lived with disability in 2015); anxiety disorders are ranked 6th (3.4 percent). The condition is also said to be the major contributor to suicide deaths, which number close to 800 000 per year. New estimates state that the number of people living with depression increased by over 18 percent between 2005 and 2015. More than 80 percent of people living with the disease are from low and middle-income countries.
Prevalence of the condition varies by WHO Region, from a low of 2.6 percent among males in the Western Pacific Region to 5.9 percent among females in the African Region. Prevalence rates also vary by age, peaking in older adulthood (above 7.5 percent among females aged 55-74 years, and above 5.5 percent among males). It also occurs in children and adolescents below the age of 15 years, but at a lower level than older age groups.
Although there are known, effective treatments for depression, fewer than half of those affected in the world (in many countries, fewer than 10 percent) receive such treatments. Barriers to effective care include a lack of resources, lack of trained health-care providers, and social stigma associated with mental disorders. Another barrier to effective care is inaccurate assessment. In countries of all income levels, people who are depressed are often not correctly diagnosed, and others who do not have the disorder are too often misdiagnosed and prescribed antidepressants.
The burden of depression and other mental health conditions is on the rise globally. A World Health Assembly resolution passed in May 2013 has called for a comprehensive, coordinated response to mental disorders at country level.