Last week Nature published a special edition on depression, asking why the burden is so great, how science is helping, where today’s research is headed and what the future may hold. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the most common major mental health disorder worldwide with more than 350 million people afflicted. Yet, it is widely undiagnosed, untreated and largely hidden because of stigma, lack of effective therapies and inadequate mental-health resources.
Almost half of the world’s population lives in a country with only two psychiatrists per 100,000 people. On one end of the spectrum you find countries such as Afghanistan with a 22 per cent prevalence rate of depression, the world’s highest, and yet it is among the least equipped to deal with it. Canada’s ratio is amongst the highest in the world with nearly 13 psychiatrists per 100,000 people.
By some measures, depression is responsible for a greater burden of disability than any other cause. Globally, depression accounts for more healthy years ‘lost’ to disability than any other condition. According to the publication, the top ten causes of disability worldwide include:
- Back and neck pain
- Iron deficiency
- Chronic lung conditions
- Alcohol use disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Hearing loss
Depression and its implications is much more complex than these numbers. We know that it has significant impacts beyond the individual afflicted person. It not only affects their families, friends and communities, but also places them at a higher risk for other health challenges.
Read the full special edition called The Great Depression, on Nature’s website.