Depression is all in your head....

...but for those who suffer from it, "in your head" can be more debilitating than other chronic, painful illnesses. A massive WHO survey study of 60 countries reported that 3.2% of people had depression over the course of a year. Interestingly, though...

This was a bit lower than for asthma (3.3 percent), arthritis (4.1 percent), and angina (4.5 percent), and higher than for diabetes (2.0 percent.)

But the results of a quality-of-life index called the "global mean health score" showed that depression was, by a significant margin, the most difficult to bear.

The most difficult to bear, and also quite prevalent.

The study, published in the British journal The Lancet, says that depression accounts for the greatest share of non-fatal disease burden, accounting for almost 12 percent of total years lived with disability worldwide.

The researchers called on doctors around the world to be more alert in the diagnosis and treatment of the condition, noting that it is fairly easy to recognize and treat.

They also note that even if the prevalence of depression is similar to the four other chronic physical diseases, the lifetime risk -- the number of people who cycle in and out of depression -- is five to 10 times greater.

As the article says, depression is pretty easy to identify. Educating doctors and the public about the warning signs is a simple thing, but getting people to stop looking away isn't.

I think it's pretty obvious that we, as a society, need to step up and remove the stigma associated with mental health issues. Not only are they as prevalent as so-called "real" diseases and disorders, more people will experience them at some point in their lives. Every facet of life is affected too, from rearing children to personal health to productivity at work, which may not necessarily be the case with a physical disorder. National health care system, I'm looking at you....

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The study is reported to consider depression a "non-fatal" disease.

I'm afraid it's not that benign. Untreated depression leads unfortunately often to death.

Actually, all of the other diseases named in the article can be fatal. Diabetes and asthma can be directly lethal, and all can have fatal complications. Depression,by the way, is fatal not only because of suicide, but it is also associated with increased risk of heart disease, as well as complications of self-neglect, drug abuse and alcoholism. In other words, depression is probably almost as lethal as cancer.

By T. Bruce McNeely (not verified) on 07 Sep 2007 #permalink

"depression is pretty easy to identify"

Debatable. Only the more serious forms. There is real debate about the low-moderate forms. Very, very grey area. I agree with Prof. Gordon Parker in a very recent article (in the Lancet or BMJ, I think), that we are way overdiagnosing, and hence overtreating depression.

The diagnostic criteria are too subjective and arbitrary to allow the sort of definite numbers the WHO are basing their statements on

For the record, I agree that major depression is a serious and relatively common disorder with potentially serious flow on consequences, that needs to be treated, and can be treated (or at least managed) successfully in the majority of people suffering from it.

By Obdulantist (not verified) on 08 Sep 2007 #permalink

I deal with depression on a daily basis, and it does effect my productivity, especially self-driven projects such as the masters thesis I am writing, as well as many other areas of my life. That being said, I agree with most of the other comments thus far. Depression is NOT understood enough and because of that IS being over-diagnosed (when no other diagnosis fits), and is often misunderstood by people close to the person dealing with it. One of the avenues that will demystify some of the stigmas of depression will most likely come from neuroscience in the near future. Being able to define and address elemental brain processes that play a part in the complexities of depression will hopefully lead to newer treatments both in behavioral therapy and drugs.

Being able to define and address elemental brain processes that play a part in the complexities of depression will hopefully lead to newer treatments both in behavioral therapy and drugs.