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Global depression (International)

July 28, 2011

New research published in Biomed Central Medicine compares the incidence of depression in 18 countries. Researchers collaborated with the World Health Organization Survey Initiative from 20 centres to investigate the prevalence of depression and major depressive episodes (MDE) in the world.

To be classified as having an MDE, people had to fulfill five out of nine criteria that included sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy and poor concentration.

Over 89,000 people were interviewed globally. Results reveal:

  • 15 per cent of the population in high income countries experienced depression at some point in their lives, compared to only 11 per cent in low and middle income countries
  • The incidence of MDEs was even greater in high-income countries (28 per cent) compared to 20 per cent in low and middle-income countries
  • MDEs were particularly high in incidence (30 per cent) in France, the Netherlands and the USA
  • India had the highest incidence of MDEs at 36 per cent

Study results also show the cross-cultural nature of depression. For example, regardless of country, women were twice as likely to suffer from depression as men, and that life events such as death, divorce or separation were main contributing factors.

The authors conclude that depression is a significant global public health issue burdening all societies, and is strongly related to social conditions.

To read “Cross-National Epidemiology of DSM-IV Major Depressive Episode”, go to

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