Depression by the Numbers


Depression is a disorder suffered by as many as 350 million people worldwide, some five percent of the world’s population. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers depression to be a worldwide epidemic.

In the United States an estimated nine percent of Americans suffer from some form of depression at any given time, with three percent of Americans suffering from major depressive disorder and the remainder suffering other forms of depression, including dysthymia, seasonal affective disorder, bipolar disorder, postpartum depression and psychotic depression.

The rate of depression diagnoses has risen dramatically over the last 50 years. Results of a research study posted in The American Journal of Psychiatry found that major depression rates for American adults had increased from three percent in 1991 to seven percent in 2002.

Depression by Age and Sex

Women are 70 times more likely to experience depression than men, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH.) Research points to hormones as a contributing factor, but women are also much more likely to seek treatment, which raises the number of diagnoses. Men are more likely to self-medicate symptoms of depression, turning to alcohol or drugs rather than therapy.

The percentage of adolescents who experience depression before age 18 is estimated to be 14 percent.

Between 18 and 24 years of age, young people are often away at college. Some 30 percent of college students have reported experiencing depression on a scale that disrupted their studies.

On the opposite end of the age scale are those above the age of 65. Of this group, there are an estimated 10 percent who have a diagnosable depressive disorder.

Depression Costs

The WHO believes depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the overall economic burden of disease and disability worldwide. They estimate that depression will be second only to HIV/AIDS as a medical cause of disability by 2030.

Productive time lost in the workplace, absenteeism and the loss of trained workers to disability or suicide create a burden for economic growth.

Treatment availability and costs are another measure of the financial impact of depression. In the U.S. alone the total cost of depression is an estimated $80 billion annually.

The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2010 that eight million ambulatory care visits annually could be attributed to one of the depressive disorders. That is despite the fact that 50 percent of Americans with major depressive disorder don’t ever seek treatment.

Immeasurable Costs

As enormous as these statistics might appear, they cannot come close to measuring the pain and suffering of those who endure depression in any of its forms. The measurements done on behalf of researchers and those who treat mental illness are for the purpose of defining the size of the problem so appropriate financial support can be garnered for treatment and cure.

It is the individual patient who endures the sadness and lack of enjoyment of their lives and that price cannot be measured.

Sources: World Health Organization (WHO) , National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Huffington Post , and Everyday Health


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