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8 Facts You Might Not Know About Depression

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From teens to the elderly, rich and poor alike, depression can affect anyone at any time. While most people know that depression is a recognized mental illness affecting millions of people each year, there are many facts that get overlooked or are never seen, and depression is still one of the most misunderstood mental health conditions in the world. Unless you’ve experienced depression first-hand, understanding the ways that depression can affect a person can be difficult. In addition, while depression is widely recognized and talked about, depression is more widespread than most people realize, and chances are good that you probably know someone (if not several people) who are suffering from depression, or have experienced depression in the past. Below are 8 facts you might not know about depression.

8. Depression is a Worldwide Problem

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Many people view depression as something of a a “first world problem,” but the fact is, depression affects approximately 350 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In fact, according to two separate studies by The University of Queensland, people in the Western countries, including the United States, are actually less likely to experience depression than other parts of the world. Approximately nine percent of Middle-Eastern and Asian populations experience depression, compared to around four percent for Western countries. Though several variables can be taken into account to explain the vast difference, such as conflict in the countries and high poverty rates, the fact remains clear that depression is a worldwide problem, and not specific to only certain areas of the world.

7. Women are 70 Percent More Likely to Experience Depression

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According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), women are much more likely to experience major depression than men, by as much as 70 percent. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is four times more likely to affect women, and women are also three times more likely to experience anxiety disorders or attempt suicide. Researchers aren’t sure why women are more likely to have depression, but several theories exist, from hormonal differences and genetic predisposition to longer lifespans and societal demands and oppression. Another theory is that women don’t necessarily experience depression more often, but are more likely to report feeling depressed, causing the numbers to appear higher. Most likely is that a combination of the above is at play, resulting an a higher percentage of women experiencing depression at least once in their lifetimes.

6. Roughly 11 Percent of Adolescents Have a Depressive Disorder by Age 18

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Adolescents are not immune to the effects of depression, with as many as 11 percent of adolescents experiencing depression before the age of 18. Chances of depression increase as a child ages and adolescent depression, much like adult depression, tends to affect girls more often than boys. Not long ago, depression wasn’t widely recognized in adolescents, with most depression symptoms being written off as normal mood swings, hormonal changes or plain old teen angst. Today, depression is a recognized mental disorder affecting millions of adolescents, and medications and therapies are constantly evolving to include the younger population. It’s important to note that depression symptoms in adolescents may differ from those seen in adults, which can make recognizing depression in adolescents more difficult. The good news is that a combination of medication and therapy can effectively treat most cases of adolescent depression.

5. 30 Percent of College Students are Depressed

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According to a recent survey by the American College Health Association, approximately 30 percent of college students report feeling depressed to the point of being unable to function within the past year, yet many colleges still turn a blind eye when it comes to recognizing depression as a valid medical condition – some going so far as to force students to withdraw from classes due to time-consuming mental health care. In a survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, three-fourths of college students with a documented mental illness reported they experienced a mental health crisis while enrolled in school. Despite clear laws against disability discrimination (which require reasonable accommodation to be made for students with recognized disabilities – including depression and anxiety), dozens of students have been punished for seeking help for mental illness, including being forced out of campus housing, mandatory withdrawal from classes and even being involuntarily committed to psychiatric facilities.

4. The Annual Cost of Depression in the United States is Over $80 Billion

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When loss of productivity and healthcare costs are combined, the annual cost of depression in the United States is over $80 billion, with $34 billion of that stemming from direct and indirect workplace costs, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Major depression results in more annual sick days than other types of chronic disease, and also results in higher rates of short-term disability. Depression has been linked to as much as three times the number of sick days taken compared to non-depressed workers, and depressed workers also tend to be less productive when on the job compared to non-depressed coworkers. It is estimated that as much as 45 to 98 percent of depression-related treatment costs can be offset by the increased productivity resulting from effective treatment of depression. Other costs associated with depression include doctor visits, medication and mental health care.

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