Depression Is The 2nd Leading Cause Of Disability Worldwide
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10-20-12 Category: Behavioral Health, Mental Health

4.4% of the world’s population is depressed. With a little over 7 billion people currently living on Earth, that means there are more than 300 million people suffering from the symptoms of this mental illness. While not everyone who experiences depression is clinically diagnosed, the data is based on the prevalence of symptoms that could lead to an appropriate diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, making it the second highest reason for disability worldwide.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mental illness that impairs the level of everyday functioning in its sufferers. Disruptive changes from depression are most evident in patterns of sleeping, eating, working or studying, and pleasurable activities. When someone is sleeping much more than he or she ever did before, for an example, and that is paired with a loss of interest in an activity that used to provide joy, depression is most likely the culprit.

Signs & Symptoms

The Mayo Clinic lists that following signs and symptoms most commonly found in those suffering from depression:

  • Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
  • Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Changes in appetite — depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
  • Irritability or angry outbursts
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Indecisiveness, lapse in attentiveness and decreased concentration
  • Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy — even small tasks may seem to require a lot of effort
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself when things aren’t going right
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
  • Crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

Depression: Cause of Disability

The PLoS Medicine journal published the results of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study that found depression to be the second leading cause of disability around the world, after lower respiratory infections. The GBD study is completed every ten years. In 1990, depression ranked fourth on the list of disability causes, and in 2000, depression ranked third. The problem is becoming worse, and is affecting more people than ever before. Since depression is progressive in nature, meaning it becomes worse for an individual who is suffering when left untreated, symptoms are obviously being overlooked and people who need help are not being treated.


The research team at the University of Queensland and the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, who conducted the study, uses what are called DALYs to determine the disability of an illness. DALY stands for Disability-Adjusted Life Years, and derives from the addition of total YLLs (years lost because of disease-specific premature death) and total YLDs (years lived with a disability). YLDs are used for the ranking system. In 2010, Major Depressive Disorder accounted for 8.2% of all YLDs, leading to the second overall global disability ranking.

Treatment for Depression

Identification is the first step in battling depression. If the problem is not addressed, there is no way to come up with a viable solution. With that said, every case of depression is unique and needs personalized attention. Often the symptoms of depression do not occur alone. Another mental illness may be affecting the individual, or the difficulty in coping with symptoms of depression has lead to substance abuse, an eating disorder, or harmful behaviors. When a person seeks an assessment, the symptoms can be addressed and properly diagnosed.

For example, depression can lead to overeating. A trained professional can determine whether one person’s tendency to overeat when feeling sad, hopeless, and tired is part of his or her depression, or whether it indicates an eating disorder. The same is true for substance abuse. Alcohol is a common form of self-medication when depression has taken over a person’s life. With a proper assessment, a diagnosis of depression and a diagnosis of alcohol dependency can be made, and can then be treated accordingly. Dual diagnosis refers to the appropriateness of two or more disorders for one person. The dual diagnosis program at Sovereign Health Group is one of the best. Each disorder is recognized separately, but then are all treated at the same time.

Taking Action

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing anything discussed in this article, contact the treatment team at Sovereign Health Group of California now. Call (866) 819-0427 to find out more and to start the healing process today!

Blog post by: Marissa Maldonado

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