The Growing Impact of Depression on Society
How economic, social, and environmental factors influence mental health
Welcome to the latest edition of Trend Hacker!
I’m thrilled to have you join me as we explore some of the most pressing “forces of the future.”
In this edition, we will examine a vital issue that affects countless lives, in line with May’s emphasis on raising awareness of current and future mental health challenges. First, we will discuss depression, which afflicts over 300 million people worldwide, and cases have grown 18% in the last decade. Now imagine that only 10% of those people get treatment.
Why Talk About Depression?
The reason could not be more critical. Hundreds of millions of people are suffering from this mental health disorder. Still, depression is also a significant risk factor for suicide, with an estimated 800,000 people affected worldwide (WHO, 2021). For example, in the USA, suicide rates increased by 35% between 1999 and 2018 (CDC), affecting primarily middle-aged white men (AFSP, 2022). In Europe, we see a different trend, with a 20% drop in suicide rates from 2011 to 2019 due to a combination of measures, including limiting access to the means of suicide, fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents, and early identification and support networks (European Psychiatric Association, 2023).
From an economic perspective, lost productivity due to two of the most common mental disorders, anxiety, and depression, costs the global economy $1 trillion annually. In total, poor mental health was estimated to cost the world economy approximately $2.5 trillion per year in poor health. Moreover, it reduced productivity in 2010 and is projected to rise to $6 trillion by 2030 (The Lancet, 2020).
Also, it is estimated that 20% of lost healthy days are due to depression, not to mention its cost to the health care system. As this topic becomes more common, the demand for mental health services and resources will grow, putting pressure on healthcare systems and providers.
Lastly, depression increases inequality in society and reduces the success of re-educational programs due to difficulties with concentration and motivation, directly impacting learning progress. Such programs might become even more necessary with the upcoming wave of AI.
Understanding Depression in the Context of Foresight
What would it be if we needed to classify depression in the “types of future changes “? I would classify it as a “driving force “and a “complex systemic problem. “Let’s briefly define these terms:
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