How Many People Experience Depression Worldwide? Facts And Statistics

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 2, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

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 may help us better understand this mental health disorder and how it can be prevented and treated. 

This article will cover depression statistics by age, sex, and geographic location, while also providing a bigger picture of the impacts of depressive disorders.

Online therapy makes depression treatment reachable

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 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, it can often pass with 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 affect an individual’s ability to function in their daily routine. If symptoms last longer than two years, an individual may be diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder, or dysthymia.

Additionally, some forms of depression may be circumstantial. For instance, post-partum depression can occur following a pregnancy (or the arrival of a new child for a partner or adoptive parents), and seasonal affective disorder can happen during a specific season, usually dark and cold seasons.

Depression also affects people differently. Not everyone has the same set of symptoms. While there are core indicators of depression, 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 tends to be higher in women than in men. According to information from 2010, globally, the prevalence for women was approximately 5.5%, compared to 3.2% for men. These values mean that women may be 1.7 times more likely to have depression than men.

The above values are representative of global depression rates, but some regions may have different ratios between sexes or a higher/lower prevalence overall. For example, depression rates in the United States tend to be significantly higher, and in 2020, women had a past-year prevalence of 10.5%, compared to 6.2% for men. Out of the entire U.S. population of people 18 and older, approximately 21 million people (8.4% of adults) had  experienced a depressive episode in the previous year.

Part of the reason for the disparity may have to do with biological differences between individuals of different sexes. One of the main causes for depression is thought to be hormonal change, which can fluctuate during puberty and, in women, during pregnancy and menopause. Starting in puberty, adolescent women tend to have a higher incidence of fluctuating emotions, including depression. Significant hormonal differences may be primary factors, along with the pressures of school and increases in social stress.

Beyond adolescence, women can also experience specific types of depression related to hormonal changes, such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, post-partum depression, and post-menopausal depression.

Teens and depression

Age can also have an impact on depression rates, with differences often beginning during adolescence, typically around 12 years of age. Adolescents go through specific hormonal changes, and they may be at risk of experiencing symptoms of depression.

According to a report published in 2020, researchers estimated that 4.1 million individuals aged 12 to 17 in the US had experienced an episode of major depression in the previous year, accounting for 17% of the adolescent population. This included 9.2% of adolescent males; while it represented 25.2% of adolescent females. 

Depression is also a significant concern for college students, with research suggesting that approximately one out of every three college students lives with depression or an anxiety disorder. Statistics on college students also show that depression and anxiety are among the top barriers to academic performance, which can lead to further stress and mental health challenges.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression in the U.S. is most common in people aged 18-29, with an overall prevalence of 21% in 2019. Those in the 45-64 and 65-and-over age ranges both had a 2019 prevalence of 18.4%, followed by people 30-44, who had a rate of 16.8%. In some groups, depression may be 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 factors that can affect the presence and severity of depression at different ages. For example, environmental factors can vary widely between different 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 depression.

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 report from 2023, approximately 280 million people live with depression. This equates to roughly 3.8% of the world's population. Depression rates have continued to increase, making depression one of the leading causes of disability around the world.

Research demonstrates that the severity of depression is a global concern.

According to a 2018 study of depression rates by regions, which gathered information from 30 countries, researchers concluded that depression is a substantial mental health challenge. 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 problems may be a lack of resources like mental health services. Also, some regions may experience a stigma surrounding mental health that likely skews depression statistics. 

Several other factors may impact the incidence of depression in different regions around the world. Regions that experience a greater amount of turbulence, such as war and political upheaval, may have populations that experience greater rates of depression. Also, natural disasters, pollution, disease, and fewer educational resources can affect the prevalence of depressive disorders.

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. 

How online therapy can help with depression

A growing body of research points to online therapy as an effective and accessible 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 access to providers.

Online therapy, which can be utilized through platforms like BetterHelp, tends to be a convenient and affordable form of mental health care. Because it is remote, online therapy is often more accessible for people who may not have mental health professionals nearby but who want to address a depressive disorder or other life challenges. With BetterHelp, you can connect with a licensed therapist through online chat, phone, or video chat at a time that works for you.

Online therapy makes depression treatment reachable

Takeaway

Depression is a prevalent mental health disorder that can affect people no matter their age, gender, or background. However, through education, efforts to destigmatize mental illness, and affordable mental health services, we can all contribute to mitigating the effects of depression. If you’re experiencing depression or some other mental health concern, know that you are not alone. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist who has experience treating people living with depression or any other mental health challenge you’re experiencing. Take the first step toward healing from depression and reach out to BetterHelp.
Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
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