A major depressive episode can be devastating to every person and family that it touches. In addition to emotional suffering, there are measurable consequences to society. To fully understand the magnitude of the problem of depression, let's take a look at some of the relevant depression statistics.
About 19 million American adults are afflicted by depressive disorders in any given year. This includes major depression, dsythymia and bipolar disorder. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of the adult population suffers from depression in most industrialized societies. It is the leading cause of disability among those aged 15 to 44 in the United States, and the leading cause of disability for those over age 5 worldwide.
Major depressive disorder can occur at any age, but the median age of onset is 32. New reports indicate that four percent of preschoolers have been diagnosed with clinical depression, and the number of children with depression is growing at an alarming 23 percent every year. One area of concern: current antidepressants have shown little effectiveness in patients under age 18.
Women are diagnosed with depression at about twice the rate as men. However, this may be due to the fact that men are less likely to seek treatment for depressive disorders. Only eight percent of depressed African-American males seek treatment. Overall, it is believed that about 80 percent of depression cases go undiagnosed and untreated. Depression is a recurring illness: after each depressive episode, your risk of future episode increases.
Depression accounts for a huge cost to the economy as well. It is responsible for a major portion of absenteeism from work. Costs to employers in absenteeism and lost productivity due to depressive disorders is estimated to be more than $51 billion per year. This figure does not include costs for treatment and prescription medications.
The effects of depression can spread through families and across generations. Research has indicated that children of depressed mothers score lower on mathematical achievement tests. Developmental delays in children aged two to four years old have also been linked to depressed mothers.
Unfortunately, society continues to attach a stigma to depression. Surveys show that 54 percent of people consider depression to be a personal weakness. In one study, 41 percent of women stated they were too embarrassed to seek help for their depression.
There is a natural reluctance to interfere in the private emotions of others. But to reach those who are suffering from depressive disorders, it may be necessary to step beyond our comfort zone and encourage those we know and love to seek treatment. Regardless of whether depression is affecting us personally, it is certainly causing pain in our community.