More than 300 million people across the world are now living with depression – an increase of more than 18% over the past decade

According to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.3 million Australians (5.9% of the population) are experiencing a depressive disorder.

This is the highest rate of depression among countries in the Western Pacific Region, with New Zealand following close behind at 5.4% of its population.

Australia’s rate is the same as that of the United States, while Ukraine topped the worldwide list with 6.3% of its population affected by depression.

The lowest rates for depressive disorders were in Solomon Islands (2.9%), Papua New Guinea (3.0%), Timor-Leste (3.0%), Kiribati (3.1%), Micronesia (3.1%), Vanuatu (3.1%), Lao People’s Democratic Republic (3.2%), and Nepal (3.2%). 

Brazil topped the list for anxiety disorders at a whopping 9.3% of the population.

Meanwhile 1.6 million Australians (7% of the population) are experiencing an anxiety disorder.

For anxiety disorders in the Western Pacific Region, Australia came second only to New Zealand’s 7.3%.

The lowest rates for anxiety disorders were in Vietnam (2.2%), Niger (2.5%), Mali (2.6%) and Chad (2.6%).

WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan says “these new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to re-think their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency that it deserves”.

The alarming numbers come as Australia makes headway in mental health treatment, taking steps towards building a national strategy.

Last month, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that the Federal Government will be putting $4.2 billion into developing a new National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.

Minister Hunt has already established a new mental health advisory panel to be co-chaired by Mental Health Australia CEO Frank Quinlan and National Mental Health Commission CEO Dr Peggy Brown.

“Four million Australians have a chronic or episodic mental health episode each year which effectively means almost every family has been touched by mental health challenges,” says Minister Hunt.

“Since coming into the portfolio the number one topic people stop to talk to me about is mental health and I am determined to do everything I can to deliver better outcomes for those that need support.

“We will continue to work closely with other mental health experts and leading organisations to strengthen the way we help people with mental illnesses every day.”

Source: Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates, World Health Organization 2017.