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Depression: Top Cause of Mental and Physical Disability

Update Date: Feb 26, 2017 08:10 AM EST

The World Health Organization released a report last Thursday which showed an increase in the occurrence of depression disorders. It also confirmed that depression in the number one cause of mental and physical disability around the world.

Reuters reported that an estimated 322 million people suffered depression disorders in 2015 and about 250 million had anxiety disorders. That's an 18.4 percent increase in the last 10 years. These numbers also represent 4.3 percent of the global population.

According to the WHO report, the 2 major diagnostic categories of mental disorders are depressive disorders and anxiety disorders. The report defined depressive disorders as those characterized by sadness, loss of interest in pleasure, feelings of guilt, poor concentration and disturbed sleep and appetite that impairs a person's ability to deal with day-to-day life. Severe cases of depression can also lead to suicide.

Anxiety disorders refer to a group mental disorders generally characterized by anxiety and fear. Like depression, symptoms can be mild or severe but these symptoms are more chronic than episodic. Anxiety disorders can be classified into generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The United Nations (UN) agency also noted that data from bipolar affective disorder (BAD), a condition that exhibits both manic and depressive episodes with intervals of a normal mood, is not included in the report.

In a news briefing, Dr. Dan Chisholm, Health Systems Adviser of WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse and lead author of the report said that depression is the top cause of disability in the world today. Inability to cope with daily life results to lost productivity with global economic losses exceeding $1 trillion a year.

The WHO said that depression can affect everyone regardless of their age or social status, the risk of becoming depressed is elevated by traumatic life events, poverty and unemployment, physical illness and alcoholic and substance abuse.

The report also showed 80 percent of depression cases among lower- and middle-income countries of Southeast Asia and the West Pacific. It is also a growing problem in Africa. This shatters the misconception that depressive disorders are diseases of the rich.

Voice of America reported the WHO launched "Depression: Let's Talk" which seeks to have people suffering from the disorder to talk about it. WHO Communications Officer Alison Brunier said talking is the first step to recovery.

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