Report: Depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability in the world


As part of its year-long campaign highlighting the issues surrounding mental illness, the World Health Organization released estimates Thursday that pegged depression as “the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide,” according to a press release.

What’s more, the WHO warned that rates of depression are skyrocketing while governments continue to invest little in mental health programs.

All told, the WHO estimates that more than 300 million people across the world suffer from depression. By comparison, malaria, considered one of the most prevalent diseases in the world, has roughly 212 million cases each year. Influenza results in 3 to 5 million severe Deaths a year.

From 2005 to 2015, the percentage of people with depression increased by 18 points. And as the organization also noted, depression can also lead to other illnesses, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes, according to U.S. News and World Report.

The WHO also found that governments currently spend about 3 percent of their health budgets on mental health issues. That number is even lower in low-income countries, sometimes dipping below 1 percent.

In a previous study, the WHO estimated that 1 million people kill themselves each year. But even low-level depression that stops short of suicide costs people. The WHO estimates that depression and anxiety leads to $1 trillion in global economic losses each year.

While suicide is not among the leading causes of death worldwide, depression has been linked to some of the most common causes, including heart disease and diabetes.

In the U.S., 40 million adults suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder, including depression, according to the National Institute of Health. And that sense of worry and gloom has increased recently, as the 2016 presidential election caused people on both sides of the political aisle to feel anxious about the future of the country.

The Boston Globe reports that depression and suicide hotlines had a huge surge in calls after the election, and more than half the public said before the election that it was a somewhat or significant source of stress in their lives, per the Washington Post.