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Depression affects 5.2% of Spain's residents, 4.4% of the world and 5.9% of African women, says WHO
OVER 2.4 million residents in Spain suffer from depression – a total of 5.2% of the population, according to a new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which says the incidence of this illness has gone up by 18.4% in the last decade.
Globally, a total of 322 million people are battling depression at this very moment, or 4.4% of the world's population, with nearly the same number – 264 million or 3.6% of the planet's total headcount – also suffering anxiety, such as life-limiting phobias, panic attacks, stress-related conditions and social fears.
Anxiety affects 4.1% of Spain's population, or a total of 1,911,186.
The most recent figures available are from the end of 2015 – those of 2016 are still being calculated and numbers for 2017 will not be known for another year at least – and, by the close of that year, the number of people with depression had risen by a fifth in a decade, since late 2005.
The world's number one cause of disability, depression is most prevalent in south-east Asia and the western Pacific, including India and China – despite common misconception that it is a condition 'invented' by the 'affluent west' – and nearly half the planet's sufferers are found in these regions.
Spain's incidence of depression is far from being the worst in Europe, however – that dubious honour is held by Ukraine, where it affects 2.8 million, or 6.3% of residents.
In terms of percentage, Portugal has the second-highest incidence at exactly 578,234 as at the end of 2015, being 5.7% of its population, followed by Russia, with 7.8 million, or 5.5% of the headcount.
And these figures do not include those who have not been officially diagnosed, are not medicated or in therapy, but are conditioned to 'stop moaning', 'count their blessings' and 'soldier on' because 'there are plenty of people worse off'.
But 'soldiering on' with a stiff upper lip is not the answer, given that WHO figures show 788,000 people worldwide successfully commit suicide every year as a result of depression – without counting those who make genuine attempts and survive.
Far from being a problem affecting only the wealthy west, depression is found on every continent and in every country, with very little variation – from 3.6% of the population in the western Pacific and Australasia-Oceania to 5.4% in Africa, and from 2.6% of Oceania men through to 5.9% of African women.
Age appears to be a factor, according to the WHO: over 7.5% of women aged 55 to 74, and 5.5% of men in the same bracket, are currently under a depression diagnosis.
Children and teenagers aged under 15 suffer depression and even primary school-aged pupils worldwide are taking anti-depressants, under a child psychologist or psychiatrist or all three.
Their incidence remains lower than depression in adults, but this may be partly due to the fact that it was not recognised in children until as recently as 15 years ago and, in some regions even within the same countries, doctors are reluctant to diagnose it in minors.
Anxiety, like depression, is more common amongst women than men – although this may be due to women being more inclined to admit to it and seek diagnosis and help – with 4.6% of the female population suffering compared with 2.6% of men.
The highest incidence of women with anxiety disorders is seen in the Americas – from Canada to the tip of Argentina and Chile and everywhere in between – at 7.7% of the continent's population, compared with 3.6% of men.
Little variation is seen across age-groups, or across continents, with 2.9% of those living in the Pacific and Australasia-Oceania suffering anxiety-related illness and 5.8% of those in North, South and Central America.
Norway has the highest percentage of anxiety sufferers in Europe, at 7.4% of its resident total, or 352,815 people, followed by The Netherlands with one million diagnosed, or 6.4%, and Switzerland and Portugal equal third with 4.9% of their headcounts affected with anxiety.
These global figures have been released ahead of World Health Day, celebrated on April 7, and to highlight the ever-growing need for better-quality and more readily-available mental health support – a service which not only varies between countries, but which is a postcode lottery even within the same nations.
In the UK, certain regions – East Anglia being among the worst-affected – availability of mental health assistance for conditions ranging from minor to extremely severe has reached crisis levels.
Even in western Europe, residents with depression symptoms or actual history have reported being turned away from A&E by psychiatrists with accusations of being 'manipulative'; told to 'grow up and stop complaining'; or being sent away with prescriptions for valium.
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