Summary of Findings: Depression in Developing Countries

  • Depression, estimated to be the leading cause of disability worldwide, accounts for more than 1 in 10 years of life lived with disability, as well as for significant premature mortality due to suicide and physical illness. By 2020, unipolar major depression will rank second only to ischemic heart disease as the leading source of disease burden worldwide.

  • Major risk factors for depression appear similar in developed and developing countries and include family history of the disease, life events, chronic social adversity, poverty, and gender.

  • The course of depression is influenced by several factors, including the type, causes, severity, duration prior to treatment, and underlying presence of chronic minor depression. Depression in children and adolescents is often chronic and continues into adulthood with higher rates of overall impairment and significant rates of attempted suicide.

  • Because depression typically results from a combination of causes, effective prevention and treatment demands a multifaceted approach. In developing countries, this may translate into a combination of health care, health education, community care, and socioeconomic development.

  • Effective pharmacotherapies and psychosocial treatments exist for depression. Though no treatment has been shown to cure all forms of the illness, a large number of efficacious and low-cost treatments are available.

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