A warning from the World Health Organistion (WHO) says that the impact of depression should not be underestimated.
The WHO says depression has a far greater impact on public health than previously thought.
A WHO study has examined data on 250,000 patients in 60 countries, and found that on a scale of 0 to 100 – with zero indicating worst health and 100 indicating the best, sufferers of depression had an average score of 72.9.
To get the picture consider this, asthmatics scored 80.3, angina sufferers 79.6, arthritis sufferers 79.3 and diabetics 78.9.
The researchers asked people questions about their health, such as how they sleep, how much pain they have, and whether they have any problems with memory or concentration.
Participants were also asked about how they manage with day-to-day tasks.
After taking into account factors such as poverty and other health conditions, the researchers found that depression had the largest effect on worsening health.
Experts believe one in every four adults will suffer from depression sometime in their lifetime and in 2000, scientists rated depression as having the fourth greatest public health impact.
They predict that by 2020 it will have risen to become the second leading cause of disease burden and say the treatment of mental illness is a necessity, rather than a luxury.
Dr. Somnath Chatterji, who led the WHO study, says the findings demonstrate the urgent need to improve treatment for depression.
He says the study reinforces the importance of recognising and treating depression as part of chronic illness because it’s a much more effective way to improve people’s health than just dealing with chronic physical illness.
The researchers conclude that better treatment for depression would improve people’s overall health and they call for better funding for mental health services.
The study is published in The Lancet medical journal