How Many People Suffer From Depression Worldwide?

By: Michael Puskar

Updated April 26, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Melinda Santa

Depression is a serious mental illness that affects millions of people around the world. Although rates for the condition are at an all-time high overall, certain regions and groups of people have higher rates of depression than others, which makes studying various demographics crucial. This article will learn about depression statistics in America and statistics regarding gender, age, and different countries across the world. The article will also be providing you with a bigger picture of this issue.

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Why Is Depression Prevalent?

Depression can happen for numerous reasons. People can become depressed 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 treated with medication, lifestyle changes, therapy, or a combination of all three.

A depressive state that persists for most of the day and at least two weeks is known as major depression or clinical depression. It can severely affect an individual's ability to function properly. If these symptoms last longer than two years, it is known as persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia. Symptoms may be harsher on some days than others. [1]

Additionally, there are forms of depression that are still common but circumstantial. For instance, post-partum depression can occur following a woman's pregnancy, and seasonal affective disorder can happen during dark and cold seasons.

Therefore, depression is a broad umbrella term that can refer to specific conditions with very similar signs and symptoms.

While depression can respond to a life event, it can also be caused by genetics, biological, environmental, and other psychological factors. [1] In other words, some people may have specific reasons for being depressed, such as being impoverished, while others can be depressed because of brain chemistry (i.e., serotonin levels).

Depression also affects people differently - not everyone will have the same set of symptoms, which greatly contributes to its diversity. While there are core indicators of it, the condition can take different forms and present itself in various ways.

Additionally, some cultures may be less keen on discussing depression, and people may tend to try to hide it, which can make the condition deceptive. For instance, depression in the United States or North America might be more readily discussed than in South America.

Depression In Men Vs. Women

Depression does not discriminate based on biological sex or gender; however, the percentage of people with depression is much higher in women than men.

Globally, the prevalence for women is around 5.5 percent, whereas, for men, it is 3.2 percent. These values mean that women are 1.7 times more likely to have depression than men. [2] This is just an average, and some specific places can have larger ratios between the two genders or higher prevalence overall.

For example, depression rates in America show significantly higher values, and in 2017, US depression statistics estimated that in adults, females had a prevalence of 8.2 percent compared to 5.3 percent in men. Out of the entire population, approximately 17.3 million people had experienced a depressive episode that year, or 7.1 percent of all adults. [3]

While socioeconomic factors, like education and income, can play a role in this disparity, researchers have been highly interested in biological factors that can cause it.

One of the main triggers for depression in women is hormonal changes which can fluctuate during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Women can experience specific types of depression related to this, such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, post-partum depression, and post-menopausal depression. [2]

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Hormonal changes can also explain why boys are statistically equal or more likely to have clinical depression than girls before puberty. However, after this time, depression in boys usually stabilizes, whereas it increases dramatically in girls. [2] [4]

Importantly, hormones also indicate that the discrepancy between males and females does not apply just to the prevalence of depression in the US; instead, it would be relevant everywhere.

Depression In Different Age Groups

Age impacts depression rates, and it primarily begins during adolescence, typically around 12 years of age.

The age issue was briefly touched upon in the previous section, and boys essentially have equal footing with girls regarding the issue. Starting at puberty, young females worldwide have the greatest risk for mental health issues, including depression.

Significant hormonal differences are primary factors, and specifically, estrogen and its cycling have been implicated in the higher depression rates in females.

In 2017, adolescent depression statistics estimated that 3.2 million individuals ranging from the age of 12 to 17 had experienced an episode of major depression, accounting for 13.3 percent of the United States' population. Males accounted for 6.8 percent of this value, whereas females were 20 percent. [3]

Depression is also a significant concern for college-aged individuals, and approximately 10 percent of people were diagnosed or treated for it. Depression in college students' statistics also notes that depression and anxiety are the top barriers to academic performance, and around 31 percent felt that they had difficulties functioning properly. Unfortunately, 64 percent of young adults stop attending college or university entirely because of mental health issues like depression. [5]

Despite big statistical differences between males and females, and depression peaking between 45 and 64, it eventually evens out. Overall, depression usually declines after the age of 65, returning to similar ratios before puberty. [2] [6]

Nonetheless, there may also be generational stigmas regarding mental illness amongst all older individuals, which may be underreported. For instance, one might not fully acknowledge their depression and seek help to avoid feeling crazy.

These stigmas can also account for some of the variations regarding stats about depression in different cultures.

Global Depression Statistics

According to a study from 2017, approximately 322 million people have depression. This equates to roughly 4.4 percent of the world's population. These depression rates over time have continued to increase, especially in low-to-middle income nations. [7]

This makes it one of the leading causes of disability around the world, along with anxiety.

When comparing continents to one another, South America has the highest overall prevalence at 20.6 percent. Asia sits at 16.7, North America at 13.4, Europe at 11.9, and Africa at 11.5 percent. [8]

One of the main contributors to depression in Latin American and Caribbean countries is poverty. With a significant portion of the population struggling with mental health issues, this hurts productivity. Depression can hamper one's ability to work, and without access to adequate health care, it can go uncontrolled, become an epidemic, and slow down development.

However, there are stigmas regarding mental health in this region, and many people are ashamed to seek help if it is available. The mentally ill have also faced discrimination, as well. [9] Therefore, education is required to destigmatize mental health, get people treated, along with addressing poverty.

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While poverty is a significant issue, it is not necessarily always the cause of depression in other regions. The prevalence in countries with high and very high HDI (Human Development Index) are 9.8 and 19.2, respectively. [8]

Another related issue to how many people are affected by depression is a suicide, and many developed countries experience extremely high rates of this. It is estimated that 50 percent of all suicides are associated with depression. [10]

One of the leaders of economic growth during the last half of a century, South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and as of 2011, 6.7 percent of the country's population experienced depression; however, since it has consistently risen, this value is expected to be higher nowadays. [10]

Japan also has experienced similar statistics, and from 1996 to 2012, approximately 20 per 100,000 people died from suicide. Most notably, in 1998, it peaked at 50 per 100,000 individuals. [11]

In Japan and South Korea, education levels are a major contributor to how many people are depressed. Higher education and advanced degrees are associated with better, more stable occupations, and therefore, more respect in their societies. Because of this, those with lower educational levels have an increased risk of suicide. [11]

Contrary to this, higher education is also a source of significant stress in these societies. Depression in college students statistics for Japan reports that 43.8 percent of men and 40.9 percent of women at the university level have high perceived mental stress. Many smoke and drink alcohol to cope with it.

Even worse, many young men and women resort to suicide to escape the stress from university and professional lives.

Nonetheless, while poverty can, without a doubt, cause depression, these statistics demonstrate it can affect people in upper-income brackets, hence, its prevalence amongst university students and professionals in highly-developed nations. Regardless of socioeconomic status, no one can be completely immune to the condition and have various reasons to be depressed.

Conclusion

Depression can manifest itself in several different ways and have many causes. People might form their own beliefs about the condition, but global depression rates indicate a serious public health concern in every region.

Through education, destigmatizing mental illness, and providing access to affordable and mental health services, depression can be fought. Its impact on societies can be reduced by creating happier and more productive citizens.

BetterHelp.com is committed to educating people on all mental health issues, and if you are experiencing depression, help is available to you. BetterHelp cannot prescribe antidepressants, but quality counseling and therapy services from licensed professionals are available online when you need them.

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Hopefully, this article has given you a clearer picture of what the condition looks like in America and how many people suffer from depression on a global scale. The stats about depression are staggering and have been rising, but with the right approach and attitudes from individuals with the condition and society as a whole, it can be helped.


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