What is depression?


Depression is a broad and complex mental health disorder affecting mood, feelings, thought and attitude to life.

Depression causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in everyday things of life.

Also called major depressive disorder (MDD) or clinical depression, it affects how an individual feels, thinks and behaves and can lead to a variety of behavioral, emotional and physical problems.

A person with MDD may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes may feel as if life isn't worth living.

Global estimates for depression in 2015 was estimated at 4.4% of the population, with females (5.1%) and males (3.6%). In Africa estimates for depression is put at 3.9% of the population. The total number of people living with depression worldwide is estimated at 322 million in 2015 and 29.1 million (9%) are estimated to be in Africa. Children under 15 years also suffer from depression but at a lower rate than adults.1

It is estimated that depression is two to three times more common in people with a chronic physical health problem (such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes or a musculoskeletal, respiratory or neurological disorder).

Data is unavailable in Africa generally for the annual service cost to treat people with depression. In addition, data is also unavailable for the cost to most Africa country economies attributable to depression.

Depression as a major mental health problem is more than just a bout of the blues. It is not a weakness and a person with MDD can't simply "snap out" of it.

Depression may require long-term treatment and most people with depression feel better with medication or psychotherapy or both.

The symptoms of depression are fairly standard globally. However, patient perspective about its cause(s), risk factors, description and meaning of symptoms, awareness of need for care, choice of place for care (orthodox vs. traditional and faith healers), and family and community support, may be influenced by cultural and societal factors.2 This is more so in African countries where a lot of stigma, misconceptions and mythical beliefs prevail strongly about mental health, mental illness and mental health care.

Read more in related information.


Related information



1. Depression and other common mental disorders. Global Health Estimates. WHO. 2017

2. The influence of culture and society on mental health


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