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Study says India most depressed country

Not indicative,inflated,say Health Ministry officials.

Written by Pritha Chatterjee | New Delhi |
July 27, 2011 1:26:59 am

A study based on the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative has said that India has the highest rate of major depression in the world.

The study,‘Cross-national epidemiology of DSM-IV major depressive episode,’ based on interviews of nearly 90,000 subjects across 18 countries with different income levels,was published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Medicine by Biomed Central.

The average lifetime rates of depression,according to the study,were found to be 14.6 per cent in ten high income countries,and 11.1 percent in eight low- to middle-income countries. But lifetime incidents of what was identified as Major Depressive Episodes (MDE),were highest among Indians at 35.9 percent,while China was at the lowest at 12 per cent.

Average percentage of MDE was,however,considerably higher in high-income countries at 28.1 percent,compared to 19.8 percent in the low- to middle-income countries.

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The study interviewed subjects on the basis of the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) technique. Respondents were first screened on the basis of three “stem questions” for depression—sadness/depressed mood,feelings of discouragement,and loss of interest lasting several days or longer.

Those who endorsed any one of these questions were put through a questionnaire to detect MDE. To be positive for MDE,a respondent had to qualify for five of the “nine cardinal symptoms,” including indicators in appetite,sleep,mood,lack of concentration and tendency of suicidal thoughts.

The lead author of the study is Dr Evelyn Bromet,Department of Psychiatry,State University of New York at Stony Brook,co-authored by Dr Irwin Hwang and Dr Nancy A. Sampson at the Department of Healthcare Policy at the Harvard Medical School. The India representative of the study is Dr Jagdish Kaur from the Directorate General of Health Services.


Countries such as the US,China,Japan,India,Brazil,Mexico,Ukraine and Spain,Germany,Lebanon,Mexico,and South Africa have been included in the study.

A senior official from the Ministry of Health,however,cautioned that the Indian figures are highly inflated and do not indicate the true situation of mental health problems. “The study funded by WHO and DGHS began in a total of 11 centres in India,including PGI in Chandigarh,NIMHANS in Bangalore,Central Institute of Psychiatry(CIP) in Ranchi,AIIMS,and JIPMER,Pondicherry,in 2001-02,” the official said. The official added that AIIMS was entrusted with the task of tabulating the data for all centres. “But after 2005-06,they started striking out one centre after another citing problems in sampling and interviewing methods. They sent a very biased picture to Harvard,without keeping the Ministry informed,” the official added.

According to the study,the average age for onset of depression was 25.7 in the high-income and 24.0 in low- to middle-income countries. The female-male ratio was about 2:1 all over the world.


The study which finds “links between social factors and depression” states that “the strongest demographic correlate in high-income countries was being separated from a partner,and in low- to middle-income countries,was being divorced or widowed.”

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First published on: 27-07-2011 at 01:26:59 am

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