The Netherlands, U.S. Have Highest Depression Rates in World

The Netherlands, U.S. Have Highest Depression Rates in World

The Netherlands regularly ranks among the world’s happiest nations, but a new study reveals that major depression is on the rise.

More people reported being depressed in the Netherlands than anywhere in the world, according to interviews of more than 69,000 people in 18 different countries.

The study, sponsored by the World Health Organization, found that 21 percent of people in France and 19.2 percent of people in the U.S. and 17,9 percent in the Netherlands reported having an extended period of depression within their lifetime. On average, 15 percent of people in high-income countries reported having an episode, compared with 11 percent in low-income countries, according to the study, published July 25 in the journal BMC Medicine.

Depression affects nearly 121 million people worldwide and is the second leading contributor to shorter lifespan and poor health for individuals 15-44 years of age, according to the Geneva-based WHO. The higher percentage of depression reported by people in wealthier countries may reflect differences in societal expectations for a good life, said study co-author Ronald Kessler.

“There are a lot of people in the U.S. who say they aren’t satisfied with their lives,” Kessler, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, said in an interview. “U.S. expectations know no bounds and people in other countries are just happy to have a meal on the table.”

The disease is the third-largest contributor to lowered productivity in the workplace, Kessler said.

Major depression is a serious, recurrent disorder linked to diminished role functioning and quality of life, medical morbidity, and mortality. The World Health Organization ranks depression as the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide, and projects that by 2020, it will be the second leading cause. Although direct information on the prevalence of depression does not exist for most countries, the available data indicate wide variability in the prevalence rates.

Researchers took into account both clinical depression, a biological condition that leads to low self-esteem and loss of interest in otherwise enjoyable activities, and types of mild depression, which can be situational or caused by environmental influences. The latter was likely the cause of higher rates in the Netherlands, U.S. and France

The report also found that women were twice as likely to experience depression, and the strongest link to depression was separation or divorce from a partner.

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