There are 330 million people around the world suffering from depression. According to Dr Christopher Murray from the World Health Organization (WHO), major depression will be the world’s second-most debilitating disease by 2020 – losing a number of years of productive life that is surpassed only by cardiovascular disease. Medical scientists estimate that rates of major depression are between four and ten per cent of the world population and lifetime prevalence of the condition – the chance of developing it at some point – runs between ten and twenty per cent. And WHO says the global total of suicides attributable to depression per year is 800,000. Cashing in on this trend are companies supplying a $7-billion worldwide market for anti-depressants – expected to expand 50 per cent over the next five years. But joining the anti-Prozac backlash are countries like Germany, where the herbal remedy St John’s Wort is seven times more popular than Prozac for treating depression. Others say poverty may have something to do with depression’s cause and cure – Russia’s rates of depression soared in recent years as the economy drooped and in the West the poor suffer disproportionately from the disease.
The Economist Vol 349 No 8099