Depression, the next emerging killer disease of India!

By ZRG | Updated: Aug 23, 2013, 22:25 PM IST

Ankita Chakrabarty / Zee Research Group/ Delhi

Nearly every thirteenth person in India runs at the risk of developing an episode of depression during his lifetime, according to a study conducted by the World Health Organisation. While experts in India reckon the threat, they caution that efforts to fight depression will remain futile unless social stigma and ignorance attached to it are removed.

According to a study conducted by the global health agency, World Health Organisation (WHO), chances of an individual developing an episode of depression during the lifetime is nine percent in India. According to WHO, depression is slated to become the second leading cause of death and disability across the world by 2020.

As per WHO, the average age of depression in India is 31.9 years. However, the onset of the disease varies among different age- groups in India, says

Dr. Sameer Malhotra, head of psychiatry at Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Max Healthcare, Delhi.

“Depression affects different age – groups at different points of time. The context, circumstance and the stress factors varies with age,” he said.

Yet another drawback in the fight against depression remains poor medical infrastructure. On top of it, whatever infrastructure is there, it is highly imbalanced in favour of urban centres. India has less than 0.05 psychiatrists per 10,000 populations; also there are just 0.2 psychiatric beds per 10,000 populations. India has an estimated 4,500 psychiatrists, most of them concentrated in towns and cities.

The country is woefully short of psychiatrists with the rural populace the sufferer of the lot. The brain-drain further strains the already short supply of doctors, according to Dr S Sudarsanan, senior consultant, psychiatry at Rockland Hospital, Delhi.

“Large numbers of Indian psychiatrists migrate to UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and other western countries for better opportunities, recognition and earnings. There are more than 17,000 Indian Psychiatrists trained in India which are based abroad,” he stressed.

Identifying the causes, Dr. Malhotra at Max Health Care, said, “Exam related stress among children is one of the major causes of depression.”

The causes of depression vary with age.

“In youth, relationship issues and job related stress contributes to anxiety and depression. In the reproductive age –groups, marital conflict and infidelity acts as a major factor for getting depressed. The older lot gets depressed due to physical illness and neglect,” further added Dr. Malhotra.

Depending on the number and severity of symptoms, a depressive episode can be categorised as mild, moderate, or severe. A key distinction is also made between depression in people who have or do not have a history of manic episodes. Both types of depression can be chronic (that is over an extended period of time) with relapses, especially if they go untreated.

There are effective treatments for depression. Depression can be reliably diagnosed and treated by trained health workers delivering primary health care.

Detailing the kinds of treatments available for depression, Dr. Sudarsanan at Rockland Hospital , Delhi , said , “ Apart from the role of psychiatrists to diagnose mental disorders and prescribe medicines especially for psychotic and major depressive disorders, other complementary therapy by clinical psychologists include: cognitive therapies, marital therapies , counseling and stress management . Yoga and meditation are extremely useful complimentary therapies for mental / psychological disorders including depression.”