Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a mental health disorder that negatively affects how a person feels, the way a person thinks, and how a person acts. Depression is common and fortunately treatable.
Depression symptoms can range from mild to severe, including:
- A depressed mood or feeling of sadness
- Los of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite – weight loss or gain
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Increase in purposeless tasks or physical activities such as pacing
- Slowed movements and speech
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts
For depression to be diagnosed, symptoms must last at least two weeks. Some medical conditions, such as thyroid problems or vitamin deficiencies, can mimic symptoms of depression and need to be ruled out.
Depression affects about 1 in 15 adults in any given year and 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some time in their life. Risk factors for depression include:
- Biochemistry: differences in chemicals in the brain
- Genetics: depression can be hereditary
- Personality: those who are generally pessimistic or have low self-esteem are more likely to experience depression
- Environment: those who are exposed to violence, abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, etc.), neglect, or poverty are more likely to experience depression
Depression is one of the most treatable mental illnesses and those who have been diagnosed have multiple options depending on their diagnosis.
- Anti-depressants may be prescribed to help modify one’s brain chemistry.
- Psychotherapy and/or cognitive behavioral therapy are often used to help the individual work through depression and are often combined with anti-depressants for those who have moderate to severe depression.
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a medical treatment most commonly used for patients diagnosed with severe depression who have not responded to other treatments. It involves a brief electrical stimulation of the brain while the patient is under anesthesia.
An Our World In Data study estimates that about 3.4% (with a margin of error this ranges anywhere from 2-6%) of the global population has depression. This is about 264 million people worldwide. This map shows the approximate number of people in each country that suffer from depression.
According to the World Health Organization, the ten countries with the highest rates of depression are:
- United States
The ten countries with the lowest rates of depression are:
- Solomon Islands
- Papua New Guinea
- Timor – Leste
- The Republic of Kiribati
- The Kingdom of Tongo
- Las People’s Democratic Republic
A nation’s culture can have a significant impact on the mental health of its population and the availability of mental health treatment services. In Japan for example, while depression rates are low, suicide rates are high for children and teens ages 10-19. This is most likely due to the culture of pressure to do well in school, conform to group norms, and the idea that suicide in an honorable way to die.
The countries with the lowest rates of depression have just recently added mental health screening and treatment services to their health care infrastructure, which, in part, could explain the reason for the low depression rates. Certain depression symptoms are more common in some societies than others as well.
While depression rates are rising around the world, treatment is becoming more available and accessible. Additionally, the rising rates are also attributed to more people seeking and receiving a diagnosis and treatment for mental illness, rather than going undiagnosed.