Facts About Depression

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated July 12, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention substance use-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use, contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Support is available 24/7. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Depression is generally regarded as one of the most common mental health conditions in the world. The symptoms of this condition can vary on an individual basis, ranging from cognitive symptoms (such as trouble concentrating) to physical ones—such as headaches or physical pain. 

Regardless of the symptoms experienced, depression can be challenging to live with, potentially affecting many aspects of a person’s life and well-being. This article discusses five of the most important facts about depression and explores possible signs that you or a loved one might benefit from the support of a mental health professional.

You don't have to manage depression all on your own

1. Depression is generally considered a growing problem

Experts estimate that more than 300 million people around the world live with major depression, potentially making it a major public health concern. It is currently considered the third highest global burden of disease, and many anticipate that the condition will take the top position by the year 2030.

The prevalence of depression by continent can be broken down as follows: 

  • South America - 20.6%
  • Asia - 16.9%
  • North America - 13.4%
  • Europe - 11.9%
  • Africa - 11.5%

Many find that depression is generally widespread in countries with a high HDI (Human Development Index), so countries with robust economic and education systems can still experience the condition. 

The availability of online therapy and related supportive strategies can help to slow the growth and spread of the condition, possibly increasing the quality of life of those who experience it. 

2. Depression can affect women more frequently

When looking at the prevalence of depression as it relates to one’s gender identity, many may find that the condition can be significantly more prominent in women than men. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that the condition affects 1 in 10 women in the United States alone; possibly prompting a higher figure worldwide. 

This does not mean that men are not experiencing the condition, however. A recent study suggests that men are simply less likely to seek help for mental health conditions in general, possibly due to fear of the possible stigma of doing so. Many experts believe that this could be prompting underreporting of their experiences, possibly inferring that more men may experience the condition than we are currently aware of.

Although socioeconomic and cultural factors can play a significant role in depression's growing numbers, biological differences are also believed by many to be responsible for this disparity. 

For example, depression rates are statistically suggested to increase in young females after puberty and menstruation; and women can also be susceptible to developing related conditions (such as postpartum depression).

Additional research may be needed for those who identify as transgender, non-binary, queer, genderfluid or any other identity. Online therapy can be a helpful resource that can impact many across identities, genders and experiences, supporting them as they work to address their symptoms. 

3. Age can make a difference with depression

Depression can develop at a young age, suggesting that depression can increase during puberty. In the United States alone, 3.2 million individuals ranging from the ages of 12 to 17 have experienced depression. 

This trend continues into adulthood, and it is estimated that 44 percent of young adults attending college (typically ranging from the ages of 18 to 24 years old) find that their symptoms make it difficult to function. 
Supportive strategies, such as online therapy, can be an important tool that can positively impact the quality of life of those who experience the condition. 

4. Depression can coexist with other conditions

Many people who are diagnosed with depression might also experience additional mental health conditions, including: 

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Body dysmorphia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance use disorder

Anxiety disorders are suggested to be comorbid in around 50 percent of depression cases. OCD and depression can also be comorbid as they have similar biological markers. Additionally, the existence of depressive symptoms can indicate that an individual is living with bipolar disorder when symptoms of mania or hypomania are also present. 

Eating disorders can also be common to find with a concurrent diagnosis of depression; not only as a cause but also as a symptom. Depression can cause changes in one's appetite and make someone change weight rapidly.

Depression can also increase the risk of substance use. Experts estimate that approximately 30 percent of people living with depression may excessively depend on alcohol, or may use drinking to cope with their symptoms. Conversely, if an individual develops a substance use disorder first, they can be 2 to 3 times more likely to develop depression.

If you believe that you are experiencing depression or any other concurrent symptoms, you may consider speaking with a therapist or your general practitioner. They can help you determine the best possible course of action to address your needs. 

5. Many believe that depression is undertreated

Despite its prevalence, depression can often go untreated—and might, therefore become a chronic condition for many. This, in turn, can increase the risk of suicide. 

Primary care physicians are statistically suggested to fail to properly diagnose depression in about one-third of their patients. However, research has shown that when patients are assisted by a psychiatrist rather than a primary doctor alone, they are more likely to get adequate treatment, including medication like antidepressants.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. Support is available 24/7.

Depression might be undertreated for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Individuals not seeking support for their mental health due to busy schedules or fear
  • Lack of education about mental health overall
  • Inadequate appropriate resources
  • Financial constraints 

You don't have to manage depression all on your own

If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health condition such as depression, reaching out for help from a professional can be helpful. However, because the symptoms of depression can include a lack of motivation, finding the time or energy to attend therapy sessions in person might be difficult. 

One alternative for many is online therapy, such as through a site like BetterHelp. Via online therapy, patients can connect with support from the comfort of their home, or anywhere else they might have a stable internet connection. 
With online therapy, one can meet with a therapist according to their availability through phone calls, video chats or in-app messaging. This may be a more convenient and affordable way to get the care many may feel that they need.

Is online therapy effective?

Generally speaking, as depression rates have risen, so have efforts to find newer, more reachable ways for people to get support. Online therapy is generally regarded to be a popular resource for addressing mental health concerns like depression and has been clinically suggested to be just as effective as in-person therapy. 

In a study conducted by the University of Zurich, researchers discovered details that suggest that online psychotherapy interventions had similar outcomes to face-to-face interventions when treating moderate cases of adult depression

Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy—and generally defines a personalized approach to treatment that considers one’s mental health condition, the presence, and severity of symptoms, as well as the preferences and needs of the individual being treated. 

Per the linked study, approximately 57% of those in the online psychotherapy intervention group no longer met the criteria for depression at the conclusion of virtual treatment, compared to 42% of participants in the control group. 

Takeaway

Depression can be considered a common and serious mental health condition that may require professional intervention—as well as treatments like therapy and medication. Depression can be managed, allowing people to live healthy, productive lives. Getting support for depression can involve reaching out for help, which may be difficult for some people. Resources like online therapy may make the process of getting professional treatment easier by providing individuals with a safe, discreet way to get the care they need. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.
Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
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