What comes to mind when you hear the word “disability”? Many people envision a visible condition, such as blindness, missing limbs or immobility. However, invisible conditions such as mental illnesses are also valid and recognized disabilities. In fact, depression is considered the leading disability worldwide.
But how exactly is depression a disability? Follow along to learn more about the prevalence of depression disability and what can be done to reduce its effects.
Introduction to Depression: Understanding the Prevalence and Impact on a Global Scale
In 2017, the United Nations (UN) declared depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the condition affects around 3.8% of the population, or 280 million people worldwide. The condition doesn’t discriminate by age, race, sex, gender or socioeconomic status, so the percentage of people with depression keeps growing.
Data from WHO shows that around 6% of women and 4% of men worldwide experience depression symptoms. Approximately 5.7% of people older than 60 have depression, and so do 10% of women who are pregnant or have just given birth.
Most people in the world live in struggling economies. Consequently, depression is among the least diagnosed conditions worldwide. Access to effective treatment is hard for most people with the condition, so only 25% of people with depression in poor- and middle-class economies receive treatment.
In the United States, 10% of Americans experience depression yearly. Around 20% of adolescents aged 12 and older also display symptoms of the condition, making depression the leading mental health disorder in the country.
Treatment rates in this nation are just as low as elsewhere in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 20.3% of people 18 and older received mental health treatment in 2020. Fewer adolescents and people older than 65 received treatment, despite being the demographics that experience increasing occurrences of depression symptoms.
The Burden of Disability: How Depression Ranks as a Leading Worldwide Concern
So, how is depression a disability? Understanding this claim requires you to take a closer look at the symptoms of depression. According to WHO, depression is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, irritability, emptiness and hopelessness. Someone with depression:
- Becomes restless and agitated
- Loses interest in activities
- Withdraws and avoids social interactions
- Experiences sudden and continuous mood fluctuations
- Is unable to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Constantly feels extreme fatigue
- Loses their appetite
- Experiences changes in sleeping patterns
- Thinks about or attempts suicide
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) outlines five types of depression:
- Major depression or clinical depression, in which symptoms appear recurrently for at least 2 weeks
- Persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia, which causes symptoms to appear recurrently for at least 2 years
- Perinatal depression, experienced during or after pregnancy
- Seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression affected by weather changes
- Depression with psychosis, in which someone experiences hallucinations and delusions alongside depression symptoms
The different types of depression, the range of symptoms and their severity make it the leading cause of disability worldwide.
Socioeconomic and Personal Implications: Exploring the Consequences of Depression-Related Disability
Major depressive disorder (MDD), or clinical depression, is the most common type of depression. According to NIMH, at least 21 million American adults experience symptoms of MDD each year. Over 14 million had at least one episode when the symptoms were severe enough to impair their ability to care for themselves and others.
Why is major depressive disorder a disability? People experiencing severe symptoms of depression may be unable to accomplish activities of daily living, such as getting out of bed, bathing, cooking or cleaning. The loss of concentration caused by depression makes it impossible for people to focus on school or work duties. They may also be unable to care for dependents such as children or elderly relatives. Worldwide, over 700,000 people with depression commit suicide every year, many of whom are between the ages of 15 and 29.
Thus, clinical depression causes poor personal, family and community health. It also makes a significant reduction in a country’s workforce. The impairment caused by anxiety and clinical depression causes the global economy to lose $1 trillion every year.
In 2020, depression cost the American economy around $236 billion. These costs are partly because only 60% of adults with depression are employed. Only 11.2% of these economic losses could be attributed to treating depression. The rest came from absenteeism, loss of workplace productivity and suicide.
Bridging Gaps: The Role of Awareness, Treatment and Advocacy in Addressing Depression
Many around the world are unaware of depression as a disability and its harmful effects. Thus, raising awareness about the issue is crucial to reducing its global impact.
Conducting campaigns to educate people in different communities about the nature, symptoms and types of depression will help people know whether they have the condition. Such campaigns also allow community members to speak openly about the impact of depression on their lives and eliminate the stigma surrounding the condition.
Running prevention programs is a good way of helping those who don’t have easy access to treatment combat symptoms of depression. Teaching adolescents, young adults and senior citizens coping skills for behavioral changes and severe mood swings can reduce harmful outcomes such as suicide. Parents and caregivers who know how to deal with depression can continue caring for their dependents despite the symptoms.
Moving Forward: Strategies for Combating Depression and Reducing Its Global Disability Burden
Effective treatment is the only way of combating depression and easing its burden on the population. People with depression need therapy, medication and exercise to deal with their symptoms and remain active participants in their communities.
Expanding treatment access is necessary to eradicate depression globally. Activists, treatment centers and local governments can join efforts to ensure the most vulnerable in a community receive quality affordable treatment.
FHE Health is committed to ensuring everyone with depression can benefit from holistic treatment at our center. We run specialty programs to address the condition’s symptoms and effects, with resources accessible to minorities such as young people, women and seniors.
We also collaborate with numerous health insurance companies to ensure you can afford treatment at our facility. Contact our admissions team to learn how you can start treatment for depression at FHE today.