Depression is now the leading cause of disability across the globe, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed.
More than 4% of the world’s population lives with depression - with young people, pregnant or post-partum women, and the elderly being most affected.
According to the United Nations (UN), the mental illness costs more than $1 trillion a year globally. This is due to loss of productivity, ‘often as a result of sufferers being unable to function at work or cope with daily life’.
“Depression is the single largest contributor to years lived with disability. So it’s the top cause of disability in the world today,” Dr Dan Chisholm from WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse said in a news briefing.
The organisation’s latest body of research found that depression is 1.5 times more common among women than men.
Across the globe, 250 million people suffer anxiety disorders, including phobias, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Around 80% of those with mental illness live in low and middle-income countries.
Discussing the three groups of people who are particularly vulnerable to depression, Dr Chisholm said: “The pressures on today’s youth are like no other generation perhaps.
“Another target group is women who are pregnant or have just given birth. Depression around that period is actually extremely common, around 15% of women will suffer not just ‘the blues’, but a diagnosable case of depression.”
People in retirement are also susceptible. He added: “When we stop working or we lose our partner we become more frail, more subject to physical diseases and disorders like depression do become more common.”
An estimated 800,000 people die by suicide each year, a “pretty horrifying figure”, Chisholm said, before adding that it is more common in males in higher income countries, but more common in females in lower and middle-income countries.
In light of the findings, WHO is running a campaign to tackle stigma and misconceptions called ‘Depression: Let’s Talk’.
Chisholm concluded: “We feel that is a key first step, that if we want to bring mental health, depression and other mental disorders out of the shadows, we need to be able to talk about it.”