WHO: Depression is Currently the Leading Cause of Disability Globally


A World Health Organization (WHO) report released in the lead-up to World Health Day on April 7 revealed that depression is now the leading cause of disability around the world. In addition, WHO estimated that the amount of people with depression -- over 300 million globally -- has increased by 18% since 2005.

Despite the near 20% increase in global cases of depression, almost half of these people aren't getting the treatment they need. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, issued a public statement regarding the WHO findings.

"These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to rethink their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency it deserves," Chan said.

The WHO also indicated links between depression and other conditions such as heart disease and substance abuse. When paired with anxiety, depression can take an even greater toll on a person's mental health.

And still more studies are coming out and revealing additional truths about depression and its related disorders. A recent study from the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors shows that more than 50% of college students visiting their campus counseling centers have symptoms of anxiety.

One in eight U.S. children suffer from anxiety, and it's a condition that follows them throughout their lives. Stefan Hofmann, a BU psychology professor, explained that college students in particular are highly prone to mood disorders such as depression that can give way to feelings of anxiety. 

"People try desperately to control [their anxiety]. There's often overuse of medication, sometimes even substance use problems come with it. People try to self-medicate with alcohol and other things," he said.

Miriam Passaro, a freshman in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, explained that heightened feelings of anxiety in college may be just "a phase" in the larger scope of things.

While heightened anxiety during college may be temporary, depression is not. Approximately 14% of Americans reported feeling gloomy and stressed out even when it comes to home decor, but that's not exactly a diagnosis of depression.

The theme of this year's World Health Day on April 7 is "Depression: Let's Talk." This particular World Health Day seeks to combat the stigma that often surrounds mental illness and help others open up to see the reality of what living with depression looks like.

For full story, pick up a copy of the MONTH XX issue of The Allegan County News/The Union Enterprise/The Commercial Record or subscribe to the e-edition.

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