India named world’s most depressed nation

A WHO research has revealed that people living in wealthier nations are more depressed than those in relatively poorer ones.

According to research, India was recorded to be the nation with the highest rate of depression in the world at 36%, making it an exception to the rule. The booming democracy is going through an unprecedented socio-economic change, which often becomes the reason for depression.

In France, the Netherlands, and America, more than 30% of people suffered from a “major depressive mode” which was far higher than China’s figure of 12%. People in wealthier countries were also more likely to be disabled by depression.

The WHO found that  one in seven people in rich countries are likely to get depression over their lifetime, which is equivalent to 15%. One in nine people  (11%) in middle and low income countries are likely to experience depression within their lifetime.

France is more depressed than Mexico

 Following India, France and the United States had the highest rates of reported depression. 21% of people in France and 19.2% of people in the U.S. reported having an extended period of depression within their lifetime. The lowest rates of depression included China (6.5%) and Mexico (8%).

An average of 15% of people in wealthy countries reported having an episode, compared to 11% of people in low income countries.

The higher percentage of depression reported by people in wealthier countries may reflect differences in societal expectations for a good life.

“There are a lot of people in the U.S. who say they aren’t satisfied with their lives. U.S. expectations know no bounds and people in other countries are just happy to have a meal on the table,” said study co-author Ronald Kessler, a professor of health care policy at Harvard.

Depression is the third largest contributor to lowered productivity in the workplace, according to Kessler.

Researchers took into account both clinical depression and types of mild depression. Clinical depression is  a biological condition which leads to low self-esteem and loss of interest in otherwise enjoyable activities. Types of mild depression can be situational or caused by environmental influences. The latter was likely the cause of higher rates in the U.S. and France, Kessler said.

“There’s no change in biological depression, but what’s going up is the more mild depression,” Kessler said. “Objective things haven’t changed. We have an expectation that everything’s going to turn out perfect but it doesn’t.”

Scientists from twenty different institutions worldwide worked with the WHO’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative, obtaining data by interviewing 89,037 people in 18 different countries from 2000 to 2005. Trained interviewers spoke with respondents in person or over the phone about traumatic events in that person’s life, substance abuse, relationships, happiness, and other factors that could influence mental health.

The report also found that women were twice as likely to experience depression, and the strongest link to depression was separation or divorce from a partner.

It is unclear what exactly accounts for the pattern but the richest countries in the world tend to have the highest levels of income inequality, which has been linked to higher rates of depression.

The authors also explained that poorer people may be less likely to recall or relate episodes of depression from their past. Comparing depression rates among different countries is challenging because survey particpants may be influenced by cultural norms (never speaking about depression) or their interactions with the interviewer.

“There are significant disparities across countries in terms of the availability and social acceptance of mental health care for depression,” says Timothy Classen, economic professor at Loyola University.  He noted that there tends to be more stigma surrounding depression in a country like Japan than in the U.S. Classen says this may explain why Japan has a higher suicide rate, even though its depression rates in the study were three to four times lower than those in the U.S.

Different age groups appeared to fare better than others depending on a country’s level of affluence. For instance, older adults in high-income countries generally had lower rates of depression than their younger counterparts, while the trend was reversed in several poorer countries.

In a country like the Ukraine, “older people have enormous pressure on them and they don’t have enough money to live and take care of grandchildren and health problems. Their lives are extremely difficult relative to older people in this country,” explained Evelyn Bromet, lead author of the study.

Hopefully the study findings will help countries identify their own high-risk populations, whether it’s older adults in Ukraine or young divorced women in Japan.

“I hope people in these countries will start thinking about social and medical support for these groups in particular, and what they can do to prevent depression in the future,” Bromet said.