I spent some time at a Women’s Retreat this past weekend and was struck by the number of women I ran across who had struggled with, at some point, a depressive disorder. And I thought about our country. The number of depression-related suicides we’ve seen in the last several years, and the sheer amount of those suffering whether in silence or opening up and sharing their struggle.
Has depression become an epidemic?
Well, first, I thought it might be helpful to seek out Webster and find out what “epidemic” actually means.
epidemic – a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time
Yes, usually “epidemic” refers to infectious diseases, but further looking determined that it doesn’t always have to. If a disease or disorder excedes 7.7% of the population, it is considered “epidemic”. But the definition does speak to a sudden upsurgence of instances in a certain area.
Does this fit depression/mood disorders? Is it confined to the U.S.? Has there been rapid growth in the recent years or is there just better testing? More awareness? Less stigma so more willingness to report?
Here are some of the facts:
A study done by Harvard Medical School found that approximately 27.4% of United States adults experience a mood disorder (depression, bipolar depression, or seasonal affective disorder) at some point in their lives. As far as how affected they are, 45% experience “serious impairment”, 40% experience “moderate impairment”, and 15% experience “mild impairment”.
And it’s striking younger and younger, too. A study found that those 18-29 years of age are more likely to experience depression than those over 60. And college students reporting a period of depression in the previous year (those that reported, depression is frequently an under-reported number) were 33% of the women in the student body and 27% of the males. That’s a big number!
The suicide rate for adults has increased 25% since 1999. That’s absolutely crazy!
The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that the level of disability and life lost due to depression will exceed that seen in war, accidents, cancer, stroke, and heart disease by 2030. WHO already sites depression as the #1 cause of illness and disability worldwide.
This is not just epidemic. It’s pandemic!
And just what does “pandemic” mean, you ask?
pandemic – prevalent over a whole country or the world
This is a major issue. Worldwide. And definitely within our country, our states, our communities. Our neighborhoods. Even, dare I say, our spheres of influence – our friends, families, and the people we interact with.
So many lives, hurting, suffering – again, some in silence. And with a problem so big and so wide reaching, the hardest thing about depression (from someone who deals with chronic depression) is how isolating it can be. How alone you feel.
This is a big deal.
Join me next week. I’ll share more about the symptoms of depression, treatments, and some tips (for the one experiencing depression and for the one who sees a loved one struggling in depression).
Psychology Today. Why We Can’t Stop the Depression Epidemic. by Jonathan Rottenberg, Ph.D