The Western part of our globe has been blessed in many ways. Has economic and social freedom given people living in the western hemisphere more time to become introspective and discover anxieties and depressions which the rest of the world is just too busy to experience? Quite the contrary; new studies provide clear evidence that mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are shared by people everywhere.
A Pair of Studies Looks at Mental Health Across the Globe
A comprehensive Australian study, which is actually a combination of two separate studies, conducted through the University of Queensland have demonstrated that depression and anxiety are not only problems of western culture. Instead, they are mental health disorders spread across the planet. The studies surveyed 480,000 people from over 90 countries about their clinically diagnosed anxiety and/or depression. The results of the survey show that these conditions present serious health concerns to all peoples.
The studies showed that worldwide anxiety is the most common mental health disorder. Worldwide, just over seven percent of the population is currently living with anxiety disorder. Nevertheless, non-western areas did report fewer cases of anxiety compared to societies in the west. This remained true even when the countries were embroiled in conflict. In the west, roughly 10 percent of the population is affected by an anxiety disorder. Only eight percent of Middle-Easterners and six percent of Asians reported having a problem with anxiety.
Interestingly, depression statistics were higher for non-western societies. Around nine percent of Middle-East and Asian populations (like Afghanistan and India) were reported as living with major clinical depression. This compares to around four percent of western and Asian (China, Thailand, Indonesia) populations experiencing major depression. One explanation is that depression rates are higher among populations where conflict is present. However, experts say that nearly five percent of all people will experience major depression at one point in their lifetime. In addition, while rates for anxiety appear to diminish with age, especially over age 55, rates of depression remain constant over a person’s lifespan.
The study authors conceded that in poorer countries it is more difficult to obtain full and accurate information. They also suggested refining measurement tools when testing across cultures to confirm their suitability. Even so, the findings make it plain that these are global health issues. Mental health problems, specifically depression and anxiety, are not the sole problem of more developed or Western nations. People in all countries and all cultures face the same life challenges and without the necessary coping skills experience the same mental health issues. In every nation those struggling with mental health disorders need to seek out available help, even as more needs to be done to inform people about the prevalence of mental illness and its high degree of treatability.