Determining which countries have the highest and lowest rates of depression can be a bit tricky. Results will be affected by the methods used to gather the information, as well as by factors such as sex and age, along with several socioeconomic and cultural influences.
For example, it was found, based on a BMC 2011 study, that those who were wealthier had a higher rate of depression than those who come from less affluent countries.
This study put the United States at 19.2 percent and France at 21 percent — at the top of the list of more depressed people. Mexico, at 8 percent, and China, at 6.5 percent, have less depressed people.
Percentage of people who will experience depression — by country
From high-income countries
• Japan: 6.6 percent
• Germany: 9.9 percent
• Italy: 9.9 percent
• Israel: 10.2 percent
• Spain: 10.6 percent
• Belgium: 14.1 percent
• New Zealand: 17.8 percent
• Netherlands: 17.9 percent
• United States: 19.2 percent
• France: 21 percent
From low- and middle-income countries:
• China: 6.5 percent
• Mexico: 8 percent
• India: 9 percent
• South Africa: 9.8 percent
• Lebanon: 10.9 percent
• Colombia: 13.3 percent
• Ukraine: 14.6 percent
• Brazil: 18.4 percent
- from Livescience.com
The study was the “first cross-national survey of its kind, nearly 90,000 people in 18 countries were screened for major depressive episodes using a standardized set of questions,” according to the Huffington Post.
The researchers also found that regardless of country, women were almost twice as likely as men to experience depression.
Marital status influenced depression status. Those who were separated or single had more depression than those who were divorced or widowed.
The survey also discovered that those who were from poor countries had their first depressive event around the age of 24, while for those who were from wealthier countries, the average age was 25.7, according to LiveScience.com.
One finding that was particularly interesting is that in high-income countries such as France, Germany, New Zealand and the United States, the poorest respondents had twice the risk of developing depression as rich ones. However, in the middle- to low-income countries, there was no link between income and depression.
In 2013, a study about global depression published in PLOS gathered data in a different way. They used historical data, measuring the number of episodes of depression that were treated, and how long those episodes lasted.
This study found that the most depressive country was “Afghanistan, where more than one in five people suffer from the disorder. The least depressed is Japan, with a diagnosed rate of less than 2.5 percent,” according to the Washington Post.
In addition to countries in the Middle East, they found that North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean suffer higher depression rates.
Depression was the lowest in East Asia, followed by Australia/New Zealand and Southeast Asia.
These researchers noticed other burdens contributed to high levels of depression. Conflicts like terrorism in Afghanistan, Honduras and the Palestinian territories, or severe health burdens such as HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, played a role.
In their study, age offered a different influence. Researchers found that the incidence of depression overall had grown by nearly one-third since 1990 as people are living longer, according to the Washington Post.
The World Health Organization reports that over 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression around the world. There are also an estimated 1 million suicide deaths every year, which may be linked to severe depression.
As our population grows and people are living longer, it will become more necessary to find low-cost treatments for depression that can be used on a global scale.
1) Depression Around The World: How Do Countries Stack Up? Huffington Post. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
2) US and France More Depressed Than Poor Countries. Live Science.com. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
3) Bromet, Evelyn et al. Cross-national epidemiology of DSM-IV major depressive episode. BMC Med. 2011 Jul 26;9:90. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-9-90. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
4) A stunning map of depression rates around the world. Washington Post. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
5) Ferrari, Alize J. et al. Burden of Depressive Disorders by Country, Sex, Age, and Year: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.
6) Depression. World Health Organization. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues.
Edited by Jody Smith