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Experts Call Depression the Second Leading Cause of Disability in the World

Update Date: Nov 07, 2013 10:37 AM EST

A new review is reporting that depression is the second leading cause of disability in the world. Depression can disrupt people's ability to perform every day activities and their ability to feel joy from hobbies. When major depression is left completely unchecked, it could lead to suicidal ideation. The experts involved with the report believe that governments throughout the global community need to address depression and treat it as a global public health priority.

For this report, the researchers examined over 200 diseases and injuries and their roles in contributing to disabilities. They found that of all the diseases and injuries, clinical depression was the second most common cause of disability throughout the world. The team reported that the effects of depression varied greatly in different regions of the world. In Afghanistan, the rates of major depression are extremely high whereas in Japan, these rates are very low.

"Depression is a big problem and we definitely need to pay more attention to it than we are now," Lead investigator, Dr. Alize Ferrari from the University of Queensland's School of Population Health told BBC News. "There's still more work to be done in terms of awareness of the disease and also in coming up with successful ways of treating it. The burden is different between countries, so it tends to be higher in low and middle income countries and lower in high income countries."

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around four percent of the world population, or 350 million people, suffer fro depression. WHO states that only a small fraction of these patients receive effective treatment. The researchers added that one of the major obstacles that societies would need to overcome in order to treat depression more effectively is social stigma. In several countries, depression might not be viewed as a disease. Therefore, people who are dealing with depressive symptoms might never find relief due to the lack care.

"What one person recognizes as disabling might be different to another person and might be different across countries as well, there are lots of cultural implications and interpretations that come in place, which makes it all the more important to raise awareness of the size of the problem and also signs and how to detect it," Ferrari explained.

The study was published in PLOS ONE

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