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Effects of Depression on Society

Depression is a condition believed to be widespread in the modern day society and has been debated as to its costs to the individual, to the society, and to the government as a whole. While it can manifest in many different ways and intensities, even the mildest form of depression could have an un-savory effect on the life of the affected as well as to those who are surrounding.

What is ‘depression’?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is a mental disorder which can present with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration. These individuals may feel hopeless, and empty while they tend to become isolated by themselves from interactions with others. In worst case scenarios, depressed individuals may attempt to commit suicide and depression is one of the main causes for attempted suicides in the world which amounts to 850,000 deaths per year.

What is the prevalence of depression in the society?

In a surveillance report published by the Center for Disease Control in 2010, the prevalence of depression among a sample of 240,000 adults was around 10%. However, around 3.4 % were detected of having signs of ‘major depression’ as well. In another study done in Canada by the Canadian Mental Health Association, ‘Two-thirds (67%) of Canadians have had experience with depression or anxiety, with 36% saying they have suffered from it themselves.’ Furthermore, the report goes on to state that, ‘two-thirds (64%) of Canadians say they know someone who has suffered from depression or anxiety.’ With all these numbers, it is rather evident that depression has become a global burden and its influence on the person, the family as well as on the society could be detrimental in many aspects.

What are the measurements to assess the effect of depression on people?

‘Disability adjusted life years (DALYs)’ is the measure used by the WHO to determine the global burden of a disease and accordingly, depression was ranked the 4th leading cause of global burden of diseases in the year 2000 while it is expected to climb to the 2nd place by the year 2020. At the same time, another measure known as the ‘Years lived with disability (YLDs)’ indicates that depression is the leading disorder in terms of length of its disability on a person.

What are the visible impacts on the society due to depression?

When looking at the behavior of a depressed individual,his likeliness to avoid contributing to the workforce will definitely have an economic impact on the society. It should not be forgotten that, the number of individuals affected by depression are in millions and the number of working hours lost could well reach many millions more.

The cost of treating people with depression will also add to the burden as some estimates put the figure as double the cost that needs to be spent on an average person. The need to establish health care facilities, training of health professionals, medications as well as other expenses adds to the economic and resource burden already felt by the society.

Furthermore, potential breakage or weakening of the family links and societal bonds could also affect the society in many different ways. Increasing number of divorce cases, family disputes, assaults among the family members, children being orphaned, loss of family values, less involvement in recreational activities…etc are some of the instances where depression may have a part to play.

It is not only the person affected by depression that has to suffer but the close family members and the caregivers also have to adjust their lifestyles to suit the needs of the patient. Although such sacrifices are needed when looking after such patients, prolonged and undue lifestyle changes may detrimentally affect the mental state of such caregivers as well.