Depression widespread in rich countries



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Depression affects around 121 million people worldwide

Around 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression, according to a comprehensive study by international scientists led by Evelyn Bromet from the State University of New York in Stony Brook, USA. Depression is much more widespread in the richer countries than in the developing and emerging countries, the researchers report in the journal "BMC Medicine".

As part of their investigation, the scientists led by Evelyn Bromet interviewed more than 89,000 people from 18 different countries and recorded the personal condition of the test subjects and their depression or depressive episode (MDE, major depressive episode). As a German scientist, Herbert Matschinger from the Institute for Social Medicine at the University of Leipzig was involved in the current study. One of the main results: the population in countries with high gross domestic product (GDP) per capita suffers from depression much more frequently than people in poorer countries. In addition, women are affected significantly more often than men, reports Bromet and colleagues in the journal "BMC Medicine".

Increased risk of depression in rich countries Around 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression, with mental illnesses being far more widespread in countries with high GDP per capita than in the poorer nations, according to a recent study on depressive illnesses in an international comparison . Study director Evelyn Bromet from the State University of New York, together with a team of international scientists, interviewed almost 90,000 people from eighteen different countries with different income levels. The ten rich countries included in the study were Belgium, Germany, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Spain and the USA. The eight poorer countries with medium and low income levels included, for example, Brazil, India, China, Mexico, South Africa and the Ukraine. Among the study participants from countries with a relatively high GDP, the risk of suffering at least one depression over the course of their lives was 15 percent, whereas the risk was only 11 percent in poorer countries, the researchers report. In the richer countries, according to the scientists, 5.5 percent of those surveyed suffered from depression in the year immediately before the current study.

Depressive episodes more widespread in rich countries According to the researchers, the differences in the diagnosed depression between the richer and poorer countries have also been confirmed with regard to the depressive episodes (MDE, major depressive episode). An MDE is to be understood as a phase of life in which at least five out of nine criteria are fulfilled that indicate depression. These criteria include loss of self-confidence, lack of sleep and anorexia, poor ability to concentrate and a recurring feeling of sadness. Using questionnaires, the criteria for MDE can be recorded relatively clearly, the scientists explained. According to the current results of the study, depressive episodes were significantly more common among people in countries with higher GDP than among study participants from countries with lower income levels. An average of 28 percent of subjects in rich countries suffered from MDE, whereas only 20 percent in countries with lower incomes were affected. According to the researchers, the prevalence of depressive episodes was strikingly high among the population in France, the Netherlands and the USA, where more than 30 percent of those surveyed had already had MDE in their lifetime. The spread of MDE was extraordinarily low in China, where only 12 percent of respondents have already had a depressive episode, the researchers report. Overall, MDE also confirmed the differences in diagnosed depression between high and low income nations

Depression affects women twice as often as men. The study not only found differences between the richer and poorer countries in terms of depression, but also showed some cross-cultural similarities. For example, women in the wealthy countries as well as in the middle and low-income countries suffer from depressive episodes or depressions about twice as often as men, according to the researchers led by Evelyn Bromet. In addition, the loss of a partner due to separation, divorce or death is one of the main triggers for depression across borders for all study participants, according to another result of the current study. In the publication, Bromet emphasized that "this is the first study to use a standardized method to compare depression and MDE across countries and cultures". The researchers not only uncovered international differences, but were also able to show that "depression is a major problem in all regions of the world," the US researcher concluded.

Depression is the main cause of inability to work and early retirement However, not only the psychological stress for those affected is a serious problem that urgently needs therapeutic treatment, but also the economic costs associated with the depression are becoming a growing challenge. As the Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (RWI) announced in April, depression in Germany already has the status of a widespread disease caused by direct and indirect costs of 15.5 to 22 billion euros. The RWI emphasized that the psychological problems are the main cause of incapacity for work and early retirement. The director of the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry, Florian Holsboer, comes to a similar conclusion. Depression is already the main cause of inability to work and early retirement in Germany, with around four million Germans suffering from depression according to Holsboer in Germany. Overall, about one in ten Germans will develop depression at least once in the course of their life, the director of the Max Planck Institute continues. Holsboer sees the stress caused by work as a major factor influencing the occurrence of depression. Both the high workload as well as the fear of losing a job or Hartz 4 or the poor relationship with the employees (bullying) can be the cause of the mental suffering. One of the most promising methods to reduce the risk of depression, according to the experts, is to avoid stress. People at risk can use relaxation exercises, autogenic training, tai chi or acupuncture to reduce their personal stress levels with relatively simple measures and thus prevent the risk of depression or depressive episodes. However, such exercises do not make it unnecessary for a specialist to help with persistent psychological problems. (fp)

Also read:
Study: Every third pupil is depressed
Men's health report: Men are often depressed
Depression: Many personalities affected

Picture: Günter Havlena / pixelio.de

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