Depression is a common emotional disorder that takes a huge toll on those who suffer from this disease. Statistics show that the number of people suffering from depression is on the rise, and the World Health Organization predicts that depression will be the second leading disease in the world by 2020. Still, many underestimate the impact of depression.

A new survey performed by the World Health Organization shows that depression may have a more severe impact on an individual’s life than previously thought. It may even take a greater toll on a person’s wellness than chronic physical disorders such as diabetes and angina.

The W.H.O. compared overall health scores of individuals suffering from a range of illnesses and mental disorders. Using a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the worst and 100 being the best overall health score, they found that people with depression rated at an average of 72.9, while those with asthma rated an average of 80.3, those with angina rated 79.6, and those with arthritis rated 79.3.

Despite the severe negative impact depression appears to have on those who suffer from it, few doctors and health organizations focus on depression as a possible cause of an individual’s problems. Spending on education about depression are low on the priority list for national health organizations around the world.

Depression and chronic physical illness may also be linked, which could explain why depression seems to have a greater impact on overall well being. Depression causes physical symptoms such as headaches, chronic pain, digestive problems, fatigue, sleep difficulty, and appetite changes. When someone seeks diagnosis of their physical symptoms, doctors may not be looking at the possibility that the person is actually suffering from depression.

Chronic physical illness can also cause depression. Those with a range of chronic illnesses may feel sad, angry or worried, and these feelings can have an effect on their relationships and work, causing an onset of clinical depression. A chronic illness may cause someone to feel isolated, out of control and hopeless. Again, all of these feelings are similar to symptoms of depression. Stress is a major trigger for depressive episodes, and chronic illness represents a type of stress. Certain kinds of illness cause changes in the brain that may lead to depression, and the same can be said of some of the drugs often used to treat chronic illnesses.

Many in the professional mental health treatment community hope that this study will be a call to action, inspiring health organizations to spend more money on education and treatment for depression. They also hope that more people will seek help for their depression, especially after learning that it can have such a huge effect on their overall well being.

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