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Depression: Second largest cause of disability worldwide

Clinical Depression is the second most common cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2010 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project. The data for 2010 follows similar studies in 1990 and 2000 looking at the global problem of depression.

The 2010 GBD project was larger as previous GBD studies calculating 291 diseases and injuries that cause premature death and disability as well as 67 preventable causes of sickness. A total of 187 countries, 21 world regions, and 20 different age groups were analyzed. The GBD took into account subtypes for the first time by differentiating major depressive disorder (MDD) from Persistent Depressive Disorder, a chronic form of depression that is not as severe as MDD.

Major depressive disorder (MDD) was responsible for 8.2 percent of the total number of years people lived with disability and 2.5 percent of the years that would have been lived if it weren’t for premature death. Persistent Depressive Disorder accounted for a relatively small 1.4 percent and 0.5 percent respectively.

Depression was ranked at number two as a global cause of disability, but its impact varied in different countries and regions. The rates of major depression were highest in Afghanistan and lowest in Japan and in the UK, depression was ranked number three. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) only a small proportion of patients have access to treatment.

Dr Alize Ferrari from the University of Queensland’s School of Population Health led the study and explained: “Depression is a big problem and we definitely need to pay more attention to it than we are now. There’s still more work to be done in terms of awareness of the disease and also in coming up with successful ways of treating it. The burden is different between countries, so it tends to be higher in low and middle income countries and lower in high income countries. Policymakers had made an effort to bring depression to the forefront, but there was a lot more work to be done, she added. There’s lots of stigma we know associated with mental health.”

The disease must be treated as a global public health priority, according to experts report in the journal PLOS Medicine.


More information on:


Major depressive disorder (MDD)

It can also be known as clinical depression, major depression, unipolar depression, or unipolar disorder.

Symptoms and signs: Low mood, low self-esteem, inability to experience pleasure, thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, self-hatred etc.

Causes: Biological, psychological, and social factors all play a role in causing depression.

Diagnosis: Clinical assessment

Treatment: The three most common treatments for depression are psychotherapy, medication, and electroconvulsive therapy.


Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent Depressive Disorder, previously known as Dysthymia and sometimes also called neurotic depression, dysthymic disorder, or chronic depression. This is a mood disorder consisting of the same cognitive and physical problems as in depression, with less severe but longer-lasting symptoms.


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