Depression Rates More Common in High-Income Countries, Study Says

Women were twice as likely as men to suffer depression, and the major contributing factor was loss of a partner because of death, divorce, or separation.

Depression is more likely to strike in high-income countries than in poor ones, according to new research on depression rates across 18 countries worldwide.

The study, published July 25 in BMC Medicine, found that the average lifetime prevalence of major depression in the 10 high-income countries in the study was 14.6 percent. In the eight low- and middle-income countries, the lifetime prevalence of major depression was 11.1 percent. The study also presents data on the impairment and demographic correlates of depression from 18 high- and low-middle income countries in the World Mental Health Survey Initiative.

DSM-IV major depressive episodes (MDE) were evaluated in face-to-face interviews with 89,037 people using the World Health Organization’s Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI).

The results found that the average age of MDE onset was 25.7 in high and 24 in low-middle income countries. Functional impairment was associated with recency of MDE. In high-income countries, younger age was associated with a 12-month prevalence, compared to several low-middle income countries, where older age was associated with greater likelihood of MDE.

Women were twice as likely as men to suffer depression, and the major contributing factor was loss of a partner because of death, divorce, or separation.

The study concluded that MDE is a significant public health problem across all regions of the world and is strongly linked to social conditions. Future research is needed to investigate the combination of demographic risk factors that are most strongly associated with MDE in the specific countries included in the WMH.

Below are percentages the study provided:

High-income:

  • Japan: 6.6 percent
  • Germany: 9.9 percent
  • Italy: 9.9 percent
  • Israel: 10.2 percent
  • Spain: 10.6 percent
  • Belgium: 14.1 percent
  • New Zealand: 17.8 percent
  • Netherlands: 17.9 percent
  • United States: 19.2 percent
  • France: 21 percent

Low- and middle-income:

  • China: 6.5 percent
  • Mexico: 8 percent
  • India: 9 percent
  • South Africa: 9.8 percent
  • Lebanon: 10.9 percent
  • Colombia: 13.3 percent
  • Ukraine: 14.6 percent
  • Brazil: 18.4 percent
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