Depression is an illness that plagues millions of people, all over the world. Sure, we all can feel sad or down sometimes, but when someone is dealing with depression, it is a never-ending and sometimes all-consuming battle. And it is often a silent illness, one which many misunderstand and as such, don’t seek treatment for. Medical advancements have been developing rapidly to help with the fight against depression with different types of medications and psychotherapies available. Social advances, too, have contributed to the treatment of depression with campaigns and initiatives to remove the taboo around this illness and help society better understand the illness.
While depression doesn’t discriminate against people, there seem to be some demographics that tend to be more depressed than others. Whether it is economics, the culture, or background, the fact that there are countries that have a higher rate of depression than others is worth looking examining. Granted, it can be argued that many people who suffer from this illness do not seek medical assistance and so there may be a significant number of undocumented cases. In some cultures, depression still isn’t as quickly identified or even widely recognized as a sickness, so a lesser understanding of the illness may contribute to fewer reported cases in some areas.
According to the United Census Bureau and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5.4% of the world’s population deals with depression. Some statistics indicate that income level can affect a person with depression as well as gender, ethnic background, and age. Here, we’re looking at the ten countries which have been identified as the “most depressed” countries, compiled by statisicbrain.com with information from the US Census Bureau and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Which countries are most depressed, and what are the possible contributing or aggravating factors for each nation?
10. Italy – 3.8%
It’s interesting to look into the societal views of depression in Italy. Based on a national survey, 75% of respondents believed that those suffering from the mental illness should avoid talking about it. Italians are no strangers to the illness, with almost 4% acknowledging that they may suffer from the condition. When it comes to the cause of depression, it varies anywhere from dynamics in the personal lives of the participants (ie; death, divorce, school money), while the recently struggling political and economic environment in Italy could well be a contributing factor.
9. Mexico – 4.8%
Studies have shown that depression in Mexico affects more women than it does men, and increases with age. But there were lower rates of depression among those in the population who were more educated. When it comes to depression in Mexico, it’s worth taking a look at the Mexican culture. With more success, depression rates are reduced. Success could mean anything from marriage, to having kids, to getting a good education: Depression was much higher among women who were single, divorced, or widowed. In other parts of the world marital success may not be such an important factor of overall success, but in the context of Mexico, a country with quite traditional family values (the country’s divorce rate is among some of the lower in the world) it is something of a societal expectation.
8. Spain – 4.9%
It was declared last year that Spain was now in an economic depression that was as bad as that of Greece. An economic collapse can certainly lead to emotional distress, as unemployment rates in Spain soar. In terms of the percentages, adolescents are greatly affected by depression in the country. Antidepressant prescriptions are on the rise as unemployment is above 20%, with the youth unemployment rate particularly bad, and things are looking bleak for this otherwise sunny country.
7. Belgium – 6.2%
Depression has become a recent epidemic in Belgium. The country made headlines recently when it became the first country to legalise euthanization in certain extreme cases of terminally ill children. When it comes to the percentage of those affected by depression – which can lead to suicidal thoughts – activists such as Tom Mortier (pictured), whose mother ended her life with euthanasia, are pushing to change the trend towards a social acceptance of euthanasia. The idea is that the high numbers of depression sufferers might mean more Belgian citizens contemplating suicide, and with euthanasia becoming more readily available, those who may have considered ending their life may be able to do so through more convenient, legal means. A 2005 study in the Journal of Oncology also supported the fear that depression and available euthanasia might be a dangerous mix, citing findings that in cancer patients ‘the risk to request euthanasia for patients with depressed mood was 4.1 times higher than that of patients without depressed mood at inclusion.’
6. Lebanon – 6.6%
For years, Lebanon has been dealing with insecurity in their economy and their government, which is at least partly to blame for the rising rate of antidepressant prescriptions along with sedatives and sleeping pills. Life in Lebanon is undeniably stressful which leaves many worried about the future of their homes, jobs, and families. Trends show that the citizens of Lebanon prefer medication over therapy, likely due to the rising cost of the latter. But the cultural perception of therapy has also been cited as a possible reason behind depressed Lebanese citizens avoiding therapy – a 2011 report on the issue in the Daily Star Lebanon stated that Lebanese ‘don’t believe in talk-therapy’.
5. Colombia – 6.8%
As opposed to the Lebanese, the depression rate in Colombia is currently attributed to the fact that available help is stretched thin, and there are limited options for citizens to seek treatment for depression. The country has been through its share of political hardship, war, and economic downturn – it’s speculated that if there were more resources for treatment, the depression rate could be reduced. So to answer that need and needs of similar under-resourced countries, the University of Columbia has begun working on trials to help treat depression using the Internet, helping to relieve the pressure of the high numbers of those seeking treatment.
4. Netherlands – 6.9%
Compared to the rest of Europe, the Dutch have notably higher depression rates than most – which seems to, in some ways, contradict recent studies suggesting that the Netherlands is the best place to raise children. But residents of the Netherlands are asking the world to think about context and perception – they say the Dutch culture is just generally a bit more morose than that of their neighbours. Amsterdam University psychiatrist Jan Swinkles states that, “Culture plays an important role. We are a somber people, but that doesn’t mean we need more help than the Germans or Belgians. A lot depends on individual context.”
3. France – 8.5%
The French may be the most likely candidates to suffer from clinical depression, given the stereotypes of the French of often wearing black, drinking coffee or wine, all while smoking a cigarette and approaching life in a cynical manner. Indeed, the very term which is often thought to sum up a depressive mentality comes from the French concept of ‘ennui’, for which no exact Anglophone alternative exists. In 2008, it emerged that the citizens of France consume more antidepressants than any other country in the world.
2. Ukraine – 9.1%
It is common knowledge now that tensions are high in the Ukraine. What is interesting is that depression is considered to be a more “western” illness and when Ukraine was announced to be one of the most depressed countries in the world, there was much questioning and scrutiny of the conclusion. However researchers, psychiatrists, and psychologists have explained the depression rate by crediting it to the transition to a post-communist state and the ongoing recovery from the stress of the 1986 Chernobyl incident. Of course, the current political upheaval occurring in the Ukraine right now probably hasn’t helped matters.
1. United States – 9.6%
No doubt that the North American country has its troubles in terms of politics and the economy. People are losing their jobs, and the economy is slowly recovering from a recession. In a country where prices are rising and wages are falling, it might be said that Americans can be justified in their feelings of depression. Many among this percentage are young people in their late teens and early twenties, as well as women suffering from postpartum depression. Whether it is biological or economics, circumstances are heavily affecting the citizens of the United States and their mental health. In the U.S. though, there is a strong support structure for those suffering from depression and the nation has successfully shed any taboo associated with the illness, with a strong culture of psychiatric treatment and medication.