Who is at risk for major depression?


Depression is a major mental health problem that can and does affect people of all ages, from all walks of life worldwide, including in Africa.

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

The risk of suffering mental health breakdown with depression is associated with environmental, social and genetic factors that prevail in African countries as elsewhere, albeit at varying levels. These factors include:

  • Poverty
  • Unemployment
  • Remarkable life events (e.g., death of a loved one or a relationship break-up
  • Sexual abuse including rape
  • Chronic physical, verbal or mental abuse
  • Chronic illness
  • Problems caused by alcohol and drug use.
  • Heredity/Family history of depsion

Factors peculiar to women, which increase their risk of major depression include; hormonal changes during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, post delivery period, miscarriage, and menopause. 

Additional factor that increase the risk of major mental health problem like depression in vulnerable women are home or work related issues, single parenthood, being the sole breadwinner, balancing family life with career, and caring for aging parent or disabled child.


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


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