How Many People Experience Depression Worldwide? Facts And Statistics
Depression is a serious mental illness that affects millions of people around the world. Although the condition can affect anyone, certain regions and groups of people have higher rates of depression than others. Studying these demographic changes can help us better understand the causes of this mental health disorder and how it can be prevented and treated. This article will cover depression statistics pertaining to age, sex, and geographic location, while also providing you with a bigger picture of the impacts of depressive disorders.
An Overview Of Depression
Depression is a serious mental health condition characterized by low mood, fatigue, lack of motivation, and disruptions to an individual’s ability to function. Depression encompasses several different depressive disorders, including major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and persistent depressive disorder. While there is no unified theory of the cause of depression, it is thought to occur due to a combination of genetics and other biological factors, along with environmental and psychological influences.
People may experience short periods of depression following the death of a loved one or the breakup of a relationship, and in many cases, the sadness can often pass with enough time. However, depression can also be chronic and may need to be managed with a treatment plan, which often consists of therapy and medication.
A depressive state that persists for most of the day and lasts at least two weeks is known as major depressive disorder, or clinical depression. Major depressive disorder can an individual’s ability to function. If symptoms last longer than two years, then the individual may be diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder, or dysthymia.
Additionally, there are forms of depression that are circumstantial. For instance, post-partum depression can occur following a woman's pregnancy (or the arrival of a new child for a partner or adoptive parents), and seasonal affective disorder can happen during dark and cold seasons.
Depression also affects people differently—not everyone will have the same set of symptoms, which may contribute to its diversity. While there are core indicators of it, the condition can take different forms and present itself in various ways.
Depression In Different Sexes
Depression can show up in any biological sex or gender; however, the percentage of people with depression is higher in women than men. Globally, the prevalence for women is around 5.5%, whereas it is approximately 3.2% for men. These values mean that women are 1.7 times more likely to have depression than men.
The above values are representative of global depression rates, but some regions can have different ratios between sexes or a higher/lower prevalence overall. For example, depression rates in America show significantly higher values, and in 2020, US depression statistics estimated that in adults, women had a prevalence of 10.5% compared to 6.2% in men. (Out of the entire population of people 18 and older, approximately 21 million people had experienced a depressive episode that year—8.4% of adults.)
Part of the reason for the disparity has to do with biological differences between sexes. One of the main causes for depression is hormonal changes, which can fluctuate during puberty and, in women, during pregnancy and menopause. Starting at puberty, adolescent females have a high risk for mental health conditions, including depression. Significant hormonal differences are primary factors, along with the pressures of school and increases in social stress.
Women can experience specific types of depression related to hormonal changes, such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, post-partum depression, and post-menopausal depression. Hormonal changes can also explain why boys are statistically equal or more likely to have clinical depression than girls before puberty.
Depression In Different Age Groups
Age can also have an impact on depression rates, with differences often beginning during adolescence, typically around 12 years of age. Again, because adolescents go through specific hormonal changes, they are at risk of experiencing symptoms of depression.
How many teens have depression? According to a report published in 2020, adolescent depression statistics estimated that 4.1 million individuals aged 12 to 17 had experienced an episode of major depression, accounting for 17% of the adolescent population. Males accounted for 9.2% of this value, whereas females were 25.2%.
Depression is also a significant concern for , with research suggesting that approximately one out of every three college students lives with a depressive or anxiety disorder. Statistics on college students also show that depression and anxiety are the top barriers to academic performance, which can lead to further stress and mental health challenges.
Depression in the US is most common in people aged 18-29, with an overall prevalence of 21%. Those in the 45-64 and 65-and-over age ranges have an overall prevalence of 18.4%, followed by people 30-44, who have a rate of 16.8%. Generating differences regarding mental illness may cause depression amongst different populations to be over- or under-reported. For example, given the stigma that has surrounded mental health care in decades past, reporting symptoms or seeking treatment may have been less common for people 65 and older.
There are a number of different factors that can affect the presence and severity of depression at different ages. For example, environmental factors will vary widely amongst differing age groups. Someone in their 30s may experience depression related to work stress, while someone in their teens might feel loneliness or social alienation that produces symptoms of a depressive disorder.
There are also biological factors that can increase the likelihood of depression at different ages. Someone in their later years may be more likely to experience depression because of physical health complications, while someone in adolescence could be prone to more hormonal changes.
Global Depression Statistics
According to a World Health Organization study from 2017, approximately 322 million people live with depression. This equates to roughly 4.4% of the world's population. These depression rates over time have continued to increase, making depression one of the leading causes of disability around the world.
Research proves the severity of depression as a global concern. In a broad-based study of depression rates across cultures, which gathered details from 30 different countries, researchers concluded that depression is a “substantial” mental health challenge. When comparing continents to one another, South America has the highest overall prevalence (20.6%), followed by (Asia 16.7%), North America (13.4%), Europe (11.9%), and Africa (11.5%). One of the is a lack of approach to resources like mental health services. There are also stigmas regarding mental health in some regions that likely skew the numbers when it comes to depression.
Several other factors determine the incidence of depression in different regions around the world. Regions that experience a greater amount of turbulence—war, political upheaval, etc.—may have populations that experience greater rates of depression. Issues like natural disasters, pollution, and a reduced approach to education can also affect the prevalence of depressive disorders. A higher likelihood of disease can also increase the risk of depression in certain areas.
Poverty and depression are also thought to be linked. Studies show that lower income levels are correlated with higher depression prevalence. However, research also suggests that there is a certain point—typically once an individual meets their basic needs—at which earning more does not reduce the likelihood of depression. Additionally, while poverty is a significant contributor to depression, regions that have greater approach to care and resources still experience high rates of depressive disorders. Researchers have found that the prevalence in countries with high and very high human development indices, which indicate greater reach to resources, is 9.8% and 19.2%, respectively.
How Online Therapy Can Help
A growing body of research points to online therapy as an effective and reachable form of care for depressive disorders. In a wide-ranging meta-analysis that included 14 studies, researchers concluded that online cognitive behavioral therapy “leads to immediate and sustained reduction in depressive symptoms”. The analysis also mentions the ability of online therapy to reach populations that may not have a reach to providers.
Online therapy, which can be utilized through platforms like BetterHelp, is a convenient and affordable form of mental health care. Because it is performed remotely, online therapy is often more reachable for people who may not have mental health professionals nearby, but who want to address a depressive disorder or other life challenges. Online therapy is also a cost-effective option—BetterHelp participants start at $60 per week (billed every 4 weeks), and you can cancel anytime.
Depression is a prevalent mental health disorder that can affect people no matter their age, gender, or race. However, through education, destigmatizing mental illness, and providing a way to connect with affordable mental health services, depression can be managed. If you’d like help navigating depression or a similar mental health concern, consider reaching out to a licensed therapist online. Connecting with a qualified professional can be a constructive, healthy next step on your mental wellness journey.
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