Depression and anxiety affects every country and society in the world, according to what is believed to be the world’s most comprehensive study of these mental disorders, conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland, Australia.
The researchers carried out two separate studies that focused on anxiety disorders and major depressive disorder (also called clinical depression). Researchers analyzed surveys of clinical anxiety and depression that had been conducted across 91 countries, involving more than 480,000 people.
In Western societies, anxiety disorders were more commonly reported than in non-Western societies, including countries that are currently experiencing conflict.
About 10 percent of people in North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand were experiencing clinical anxiety compared to approximately eight percent in the Middle East and six percent in Asia.
The opposite was true for depression, with those in Western countries least likely to feel depressed. Researchers found that depression was the lowest in North America and highest in certain areas of Asia and the Middle East.
Approximately nine percent of people experience major depression in Asian and Middle Eastern countries, such as India and Afghanistan, compared with about four percent in North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and East Asian countries including China, Thailand and Indonesia.
Study co-author Alize Ferrari said that the findings suggest that depression may be more common in parts of the world where conflict is occurring. However, she emphasizes that it can be a difficult task to get hold of good quality data from low and middle income countries.
Amanda Baxter, who led the study, also added that researchers should use caution when comparing mental disorders across different societies and countries.
“Measuring mental disorders across different cultures is challenging because many factors can influence the reported prevalence of anxiety disorders,” said Baxter.