Upsetting
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
 
American gloom epidemic hits 30 million and takes a $52b toll on production

WASHINGTON - Sixteen per cent of Americans - more than 30 million people - will suffer major depression at some point in their lives, United States researchers reported yesterday.

The gloom would cost employers more than US$30 billion ($52 billion) in lost productivity, they said

"Major depression is now the No 1 leading cause of disability across the world," Kathleen Merikangas of the National Institute of Mental Health said.

The survey of more than 9000 adults across 48 states suggested that about 13 million Americans, or more than 6 per cent, had an episode of major depression in the last year.

Only about half sought any kind of treatment, and only half of these had the right treatment, the survey found.

"The impact that we found in our survey is absolutely dramatic," Merikangas said. "It affects jobs, marriage, parenting,"

Half the patients had severe depression, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association, lasting an average of four months.

Her team's study was one of several published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

It said patients and doctors alike often did not recognise depression.

"Many people don't know that they can get help," Merikangas said.

Drugs and counselling had been shown to help depression.

Depression became less common as people aged and perhaps adjusted to their lot in life, the survey found.

"It appears that major depression is more common in young adults," Merikangas said.

"We found increased rates of depression as well among those who are poor and less-educated," Merikangas said.

The numbers might be even higher, she said, as the survey did not include homeless people or those in institutions.

A separate survey by Walter Stewart and colleagues at Geisinger Health Systems in Danville, Pennsylvania, found the cost of depression affected more than just the patients and their families.

His team interviewed 1190 working adults and found that 9.4 per cent of all workers have some form of depression.

They lose, on average, 5.6 hours of work each week, as compared to 1.5 lost hours due to illnesses among non-depressed workers.

- REUTERS
 
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