Major Depression Facts
Understanding Clinical (Major) Depression Today
MAJOR DEPRESSION is a huge problem and it is growing. By looking at the statistics we can clear up common misconceptions and make it easier to tackle major depression at its root.
Major depression is the No.1 psychological disorder in the western world.(1) It is growing in all age groups, in virtually every community, and the growth is seen most in the young, especially teens. At the rate of increase, it will be the 2nd most disabling condition in the world by 2020, behind heart disease.
The escalation in the problem, as well as the facts relating to recurring episodes of depression show that while the first line treatment of depression by antidepressants may sometimes control the symptoms, it usually does little to give sufferers depression-free lives.
More than ever, we need to look at alternatives to drugs that will equip us to deal effectively with the triggers that allow depression to take hold again and again. This is where drug treatments fail.
Facts on major depression
First and foremost, clinical or major depression is growing at an incredible rate.
- People of all ages, backgrounds, lifestyles, and nationalities suffer from major depression, with a few exceptions.
- Up to 20% of people experience symptoms of depression.
- 10 times more people suffer from major depression now than in 1945 (2)
- The average age of first onset of major depression is 25-29
A few key areas of society remain where major depression is not seen. Also, the huge increase in cases of major depression show that it can't be a disease.
Yet, it is estimated 35 to 40 million Americans living today will suffer from major depression at some time during their lives, with about half of this amount suffering from recurring depression symptoms. (3)
This isn't due to more people telling their doctor. In fact, a major issue when considering the effect of major depression on society as a whole is the amount of misdiagnosis, or cases where major depression goes undiagnosed.
Major depression and suicide
- About a quarter of suicides in the US are felt to be due to undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed major depression.
- Up to 80% of suicide deaths are in sufferers of major depression.
Given that suicide is the 8th largest cause of death in the US, it's no wonder that major depression is classed as "the nation's leading mental health problem".
Even these horrific numbers may not reveal the true picture, given that many suicides will be disguised as accidental death.
Why the sudden increase?
Societies that breed depression, and societies that don't
It is a fact that we all have basic emotional needs that must be met for us to thrive and enjoy life. After the primary human needs for food, water and shelter come commonly shared emotional and physical needs. Without exception we find depressed people are not getting these needs met.
Traditional communities naturally meet many 'basic needs' for emotional support. In the traditional Amish society in the US major depression is almost unknown, as it is in the equally traditional Kaluli tribe of New Guinea. In these societies individual concerns are group concerns and vise-versa. You know that if you have a problem other people will help you and you are expected to help out when others need support. We know we are meant to do these things but it's not a 'built in feature' of modern society in the same way.
These days we are much more 'self-focused'. The idea of considering the wider community to be more important than the self is almost impossible to understand for most people.
Major depression is 4th most disabling condition in the world, and 2nd most in the developed world. As well as the human cost, the burden on society is incredible. Much of the research on this site about effective treatments for depression has been controlled by the US government, in order to try and find the best way to overcome depression. The cost to society is real, and we need to find the best way at beating depression for good.
The Learning Path
- Seligman, M. E. P. (1990) Learned Optimism.
- Seligman, M. E. P. In J. Buie (1988) 'Me' decades generate depression: individualism erodes commitment to others. APA Monitor, 19, 18. "People born after 1945 were ten times more likely to suffer from depression than people born 50 years earlier."
- Weissman MM, Klerman GL. Epidemiology of mental disorders. Emerging trends in the United States. Arch Gen Psychiatr 1978;35:705.
The changing rate of major depression. Cross-national comparisons. Cross-National Collaborative Group. JAMA 1992;268:3098-3105.
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