Wealthier countries are more depressed, new study shows

Wealthier countries are more depressed, new study shows

By Rebecca Coxon

Wealthier countries are more likely to suffer from depression, a new study shows, and women are twice as likely to suffer from the mental illness.

Major depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, yet detailed epidemiologic data on such is not available for many countries, particularly ones of low-middle income.

Researchers who compared socioeconomic conditions with depression, found that 15% of the population in high income countries were likely to get depression at some point in their lifetime, compared with only 11% in low or middle income countries.

High income countries also showed higher rates of major depression (28% compared to 20%), with particularly high rates of more than 30% being found in the United States, France, the Netherlands and India.

China and Mexico reported the lowest depression rates at just 6.5% and 8%.

The study, published this month in the journal BMC Medicine and conducted by researchers in conjunction with the World Health Organisation’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative, presents data on the prevalence, impairment, and demographic correlates of depression from 18 high and low-middle income countries.

Detailed interviews with more than 89,000 people in 18 nations also revealed that the average age at onset of depression was nearly two years younger in low-income countries.

Women appeared to suffer at a 2:1 ratio of men and the major contributing factor was loss of a partner because of death, divorce or separation.

Evelyn Bromet, of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, explained:

"We have shown that depression is a significant public-health concern across all regions of the world and is strongly linked to social conditions. Understanding the patterns and causes of depression can help global initiatives in reducing the impact of depression on individual lives and in reducing the burden to society,"

It appears therefore that money cannot, indeed, buy you happiness. But why are the wealthier nations the more depressed ones? Perhaps higher levels of pressure and stress are to blame?

Another theory is that wealthier countries tend to be more socially fragmented and individualistic, with the pursuit of a career often taking precedence over family or spirituality.

"Wealthier nations ... are industrialised nations where individuals rely less on family support for everything from childcare to marital advice," Dr. Sudeepta Varma, an assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University's Langone Medical Center, said.

"There is a well-known link between social support being a protective factor against depression."

Approximately 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression and suicide causes 850,000 deaths every year.

For more information visit: /www.biomedcentral.com

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