The recent suicide of famous celebrities and TV personalities due to depression highlights the sharp rise in the number of individuals suffering from depression. It also emphasizes the fact that some individuals who otherwise seem fine are actually shattered from within, giving rise to concerns regarding the growing prevalence of depression and a large portion of it going undetected or undiagnosed. The figures revealing the number of patients suffering from depression are alarming, with the United States alone having more than 16 million adults (which equates to approximately 6.9 percent of the population) battling with some form of depression, and a shockingly high number of children as well.


Prevalence of depression

The number of people suffering from depression is rising year after year. In fact, it is assumed that one individual out of six in the USA will suffer from some form of depression in their lifetime. However, the lack of awareness regarding symptoms and the fact that not many cases meet the required criteria to make a diagnosis (even though they might be suffering from a version of depression), makes it difficult to arrive at a figure regarding the population suffering from the disorder and the prevalence of this mental health disease.


Certain findings reveal that the disorder that turns out to be most costly to employers is depression, followed closely by obesity. The cost is not only in terms of money and expenditures but in terms of productivity, as depressed individuals, while present at work, might take a longer time to complete a certain task or might not be able to concentrate on it. Also, those depressed employees are often absent from work owing to the condition and its symptoms.


The prevalence of depression is higher in the following populations:

  • Women
  • Elderly patients (especially those suffering from some type of chronic illness or condition)


The point of concern and contradiction is that despite the higher prevalence of depression, it is one of the most underdiagnosed conditions; it is also undertreated.


Depression—why is it an underdiagnosed disorder?

Depression bears the brunt of often being an undiagnosed or underdiagnosed mental disorder. The lack of information regarding its signs and symptoms is one of the important causes. Also, there is a stigma attached to the disorder that makes those experiencing the symptoms hesitate in getting help. What they need are informed family members and observant doctors to help them acknowledge the problem and guide them through the treatment.


Another primary cause is that the disorder and its symptoms are often not acknowledged by primary care providers. While visiting a physician for the treatment of minor maladies, depressed patients usually do complain of “not feeling quite themselves” or “experiencing problems with sleep” and similar accounts, but these are either ignored or they are not taken seriously. Further probing and investigation by the physician can often help diagnose the problem in time and nip it in the bud.


Pharmacists and physicians must review the regimen of daily medication with patients while also patiently discussing all the symptoms and reviewing possible side effects of the drugs. They should also counsel older patients and teens about depression, its symptoms, and the reasons why it is underdiagnosed.


To help with timely diagnosis of depression, we need a society that has attentive and informed families, friends, and physicians.