What is the public health significance of depression?

Depression is very common. Around 20 million European citizens suffer from depression each year (WHO, 2008).

According to the World Health Organisation, depression is one of the most disabling disorders in the world, affecting roughly one in five women and one in ten men at some point in their lifetime. Each year, in Europe, it is estimated that 7% of people experience an episode of depression. In Europe, a third of all disease costs pertain to central nervous system disorders and half of these involve depression.

Depression can affect anyone. Men and women of all age groups, educational level, and social and economic status suffer from depression. All the areas of life are impacted when depression is present. Family, parenting, marriage, dating, making friends, work, studying, careers, and finances: all aspects of daily living are compromised by the presence of depression. Depression often recurs after a first episode and can become persistent or chronic if left undiagnosed and untreated.

But the picture can be even more severe when depression occurs in combination with other medical illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, stroke, or cardiovascular disease, or with psychiatric related disorders such as anxiety or substance abuse.

A substantial number of depressed people die by suicide and many more engage in non-fatal self-harm behaviour. In the European Member States alone, each year 60,000 people die by suicide and more than half were depressed.