Grim finding – The Nation

An estimated 6.4 million people in the country suffer from depressive disorder while 6.9 million from anxiety disorders, says a new study of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The persons with anxiety disorders constitue 4.4 percent of the total population, the highest among the 11 countries of the WHO’s South East Asia Region. It is 4.1 percent in the case of depressive disorder in Bangladesh.

In the region, Timor-Leste has the lowest rate of depressive disorder with 3 percent, while India has the highest with 4.5 percent.

The study titled “Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates” published on Thursday says globally 322 million people (4.3 percent of the world’s population) are estimated to suffer from depression.

And 264 million suffer from anxiety disorders.

Globally, women suffer from mental disorders more than men, the report says.

“The number of persons with common mental disorders globally is going up, particularly in lower-income countries, because the population is growing and more people are living to the age when depression and anxiety most commonly occurs,” the report says.

Depressive disorders are characterised by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness and poor concentration. It substantially impairs individual’s ability to function at work or school or cope with daily life. At its most severe, depression can lead to suicide, it says.

On the other hand, anxiety disorders refer to a group of mental disorders characterised by feelings of anxiety and fear, panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Although depression can and does affect people of all ages, from all walks of life, the risk of becoming depressed is increased by poverty, unemployment, life events such as the death of a loved one or a relationship break-up, physical illness and problems caused by alcohol and drug use.

Explaining the issues, Dr Sultana Algin, associate professor of psychiatry at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), said depression is said to the second highest factor to cause medical illness of all sorts by 2030.

Common mental disorders occur for two major factors: genetic and environmental. Besides, she added, physical sickness like stroke or typhoid also contributes to mental disorders.

Social, economic and familial issues are the other factors behind depression or anxiety disorders, Sultana told this correspondent.

Loss of spouse causes mental disorders in the Western countries in most cases, but in countries like Bangladesh, loss of children leads to such disorders. Problems of children often cause depression among the parents.

Financial crisis, especially when women feel they cannot earn or can’t spend as they want, leads to depression. On the other hand, lack of jobs, low salary, lack of promotion in job and professional conflicts are some of the common factors leading to depression. 

“In our country, often males, who take all responsibilities of the family, face mental disorders,” Sultana said. Too much expectation of the parents from their children is to blame for depression among kids, she added.

Depression is ranked by WHO as the single largest contributor to global disability while anxiety disorders are ranked 6th.

In Bangladesh, depression contributes to 7.1 percent of all years lived with disability.

Depression is also the major contributor to suicide deaths, with close to 800,000 per year globally, the WHO said.


Sultana said people in the developing countries like Bangladesh think one suffers from mental illness only when one is a mad, which is totally wrong.

Therefore, overall awareness on mental illness is important. A subject on mental wellbeing can be inlcuded in school curricullum, she added.

As preventive measures, Sultana said, the authorities need to have policies in place that create jobs, especially because youths constitute a huge portion of the country’s population.

Familial bondage, sharing burdens and responsibility, social cohesion and removal of negative thoughts can largely help reduce mental disorders like depression and anxiety disorders, she said.

Sultana suggested a diet plan of having foods like banana, nuts, dates, broccoli, avocado and spinach can improve level of serotonin, a chemical in nerve system that goes down while in depression.