Depression is a word that we come across frequently these days. It is considered by WHO as a single largest contributor to global disability. According to WHO 2017 estimates, globally 322 million people were affected by depression in 2015 and 7.5% of them lived with disability in the same year. It is the estimated 4.4% of the global population who are reeling under depression. Almost half of this population resides in the South-east Asia (including India and China) and South-Pacific regions.
There has been a sharp rise of 18.4 % in the estimated number of population suffering from depression in a decades time from 2005 to 2015. Projections indicate that by the year 2020, depression will be the leading cause of life loss just after heart disease. This shows how severe the problem is. Therefore, understanding its incidences and prevalence will give us an even better insight about the extent to which the human society is getting engulfed by this killer disorder.
Source: WHO (2017). Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders
4.4% of the global population was under the grips of depression in 2015. The incidence, prevalence, and duration of depression adds to the burden of social and public health while at the same time taking off years from lives of people. According to WHO , the total estimated number of people living with depression increased by 18.4% between 2005 and 2015. It is a reflection of the overall growth in the proportion of population living with depression along with the growth of worlds population.
“The total number of people living with depression in the world is 322 million. Nearly half of these people live in the South-East Asia Region and Western Pacific Region, reflecting the relatively larger populations of those two Regions (which include India and China, for example).” (WHO)
With second largest population in the world, India has 7.5% of its 1.2 billion population suffering from major or minor mental disorder that needs expert intervention (WHO, 2017). National Mental Health Survey 2015 – 16, a government of India study, has revealed that 11% of Indian population above the age of 18 are suffering from mental disorders.
World’s most populous country China has more than 50 million people suffering from depression according to WHO . In China geriatric depression or old-age depression is quite prevalent. Moreover, changes in the economic and social dynamics such as shift from agrarian economy to industrialized economy, emphasis on small families breaking down the traditional societal structure are causing depression among later generations. The youth is also facing challenges that of economic down turn and changes in education and social front that are making them depressed.
Depression is still considered a stigma in China. It is a sign of weakness for them. The society isolates and stigmatizes the patients. As a result, many don’t talk about their problems.
Around 86 million people are affected by depression in the Southeast Asia, a report from WHO in 2017 states. Countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Indonesia and Maldives keep depression among their list of top 10 health priorities. The causes of depression in this region is economic underdevelopment, poverty, societal non-acceptance of mental illness, and the like.
Researchers at Australia’s University of Queensland found that the region suffers the world’s highest depression rates. Other researchers have generated evidence to suggest that psychiatric disorders are significantly expanding within Middle Eastern communities and it’s costing people in the region years off their lives.The factors that are mostly likely affecting the mental health of people in this region are never ending plague of war and conflict in the region, stigmatization of mental health issues and subjugated status of women in the society.
Depression is not a priority in the Middle-East
“Mental health is not a strong priority in the Middle East and this lack of prioritization means that the available resources are rarely translated into policy or planning for action at a population level by governments. Therefore, like with most medical conditions, many people living in Arab states are subject to insufficient support and assistance and while in the west mental health is becoming more socially accepted and better understood, stigma often prohibits discussion of depression and associated illnesses in the region. The lack of attention and care given to one’s mental health, within their communities and on a larger scale, within their countries means few people in the Middle East seek or receive help for their mental suffering.” (Yasmine El-Geressi, 2017)
“More than a third of the population of Europe suffer from some sort of a mental disorder each year”, according to a study by Boseley (Boseley, 2011).
The European College of Neuropsychopharmacology through a research “has found that more than 164 million people in the EU – more than 38% of the population – have a mental disorder in any year”.
Anxiety is the Biggest Killer
“Anxiety disorders top the list: 14% of the EU population suffer from one or more of them each year, while 7% experience insomnia, 6.9% have depression and 5.4% suffer dementia.”(Boseley, 2011). The social structure of the EU countries, break down of families and high divorce rates are probable cause of anxiety in the region.
Women Suffer More
Women suffer disproportionately from depression. The number has been increased alarmingly in the last four decades. Men mostly become alcohol dependant. Studies have shown that women aged between 16 and 42 are at the highest risk of being hit by depression. As compared to the 70s, 80s and 90s witnessed doubling of depressive episodes in females. Changing social patterns, more women trying to balance marriage and a family as well as a job, and divorce are putting added pressure on female psyche. Many women are finding it hard to cope with the dual responsibility of being a caregiver on the one hand and an efficient worker on the other. Events like divorce are putting extra financial pressure that they must bear not only for herself but also for children. (Boseley, 2011). These factors are pushing women towards stress and depression.
In the United States, 40 million adults or 18.1% of the entire population is battling with depression. 3.3% of the population in the UK has fallen prey to depressive disorders.
In the USA, an estimated 11 percent of teenagers experience a depressive occurrence before turning 18 years of age. The incidence of depression in pre-pubescent girls and boys are same, however, after adolescence, the depression rate is twice as high in women as compared to men.
The capitalistic individualist society plagued with depression
The societal structure and the culture of the USA turn people living in it individualistic. They tend to stay alone instead of living with family after a certain age. They lay much emphasis on independence. But along with independence comes lack of support system and loneliness. One must deal with the vagaries of life single-handedly. This makes people prone to depression.
The corporate culture of the US companies are highly competitive and to some extent cut-throat. Coping with them and surviving the environment itself are a stressful affair. Additionally, climbing the corporate ladder is a truly challenging task, which often end up people depressed.
Racial discrimination and bullying especially among teenagers are major causes of depression.
North Africa and the Middle East are among the regions of the world with the highest prevalence rates for depression. More than five percent of the entire population in North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe suffer from depression. Africa is fraught with issues like underdevelopment, poverty, food shortage, group conflicts, high prevailance of HIV which are underlying causes of rising depression in the continent.
Rest of the World
Depression rates are however at a low in East Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Japan is the least depressed with less than 2.5% of the population affected by depression.
Depression seems to be rising in different countries, especially in large countries like USA, India, China. Studies in 2017 have shown that between 2005 and 2015 depression has risen significantly among Americans aged 12 and more. An annual study by US National Survey on Drug Use and Health of persons ages 12 and over (2017) indicated that in a sample of 607,502, 6.6 % suffered from depression in 2005 which rose to 7.3 % in 2015. Within the age group of 12-17 years the increase in depression rates have alarmingly skyrocketed from 8.7% to 12.7 % in a span of 10 years from 2005 to 2015. Further studies are showing that depression is lightly yet significantly higher among residents of rural area compared to residents of urban areas.
A way Towards Happiness
Depression is lack of happiness and peace. We are witnessing a steady rise in this phenomenon world wide irrespective of economic condition of the countries. People belonging to the rich and prosperous countries are no less prone to the depressive spells than people of countries reeling under underdevelopment and poverty. It is high time that we need to change our perspective about being happy. It is not the GDP or the income level of the countries that are capable of ensuring happiness and peace. Bhutan developed a measurement tool that is useful for policymaking called Gross National Happiness Index. It was coined by Bhutan’s 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
King Wangchuck stated, ” Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product. This concept considers both economic and non-economic factors to ascertain the wellbeing of people and take a holistic approach towards sustainability.” United Nations began publishing World happiness Report since 2012 based on Gross National Happiness of countries worldwide.The index includes tradtional socio-economic standards and non-traditional aspects like culture and psychology on wellbeing of population. The GNH Index includes nine domains and 33 indicators.
A world with misplaced priorities
In a world where technology has brought many comforts to the masses, why is it that happiness eludes an increasing portion of the population? We all have to realize that any development without a correlated increase in happiness & decrease in depression is a hollow progress. The need of the hour is to re-align personal & institutional priorities to reflect this need for relevance in ever-so-confusing times.