Depression is a common mental health condition that can affect how a person thinks, feels, and interacts with the world. However, there are many myths and misconceptions about depression.

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Some of the facts about depression are well-known, but others may be more surprising. For example, many people may be unaware that depression disproportionately affects females and that the United States has a high rate of depression compared with other countries.

Read on to learn 20 important facts about depression.

Besides feeling sad, people with depression can lose interest in the hobbies and activities they used to enjoy.

This can cause a range of physical and emotional problems, and it can result in a person further withdrawing from social situations. It can also reduce their ability to function normally at school and work.

About 1 in 6 adults in the U.S. will experience depression at some point in their lifetime. This equates to about 16 million people each year.

Globally, an estimated 1 in 20 adults has depression.

Although people often assume that all depression looks the same, the symptoms can vary significantly. Some symptoms to look out for include:

  • feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • losing interest or pleasure in the activities a person used to enjoy
  • losing or gaining weight due to appetite changes
  • getting too much or not enough sleep
  • lacking energy or feeling more fatigued than usual
  • having obvious slowed movements or speech
  • feeling worthless or guilty
  • having trouble thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • thinking about death or suicide

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects if it’s safe to do so.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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The symptoms must last at least 2 weeks for a diagnosis of depression. A person also needs to experience a change in their level of functioning.

When diagnosing depression, doctors or licensed mental health professionals will also need to rule out other conditions that can mimic the signs of depression. These include thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies, and other mental health conditions.

The condition can affect a person at any age, but, on average, people first experience depression in their late teens to mid-20s. A person is also more likely to experience depression if they have a parent or sibling with depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that in 2020, 4.1 million adolescents aged 12–17 years experienced one or more major depressive episodes. This equates to 17% of adolescents in the U.S.

It is normal for a person to struggle with some of the more difficult experiences in life, such as the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or the loss of a job. Although the grieving process can share some similarities with depression, it is not the same thing.

For instance, a grieving person typically maintains their self-esteem despite feeling sad, whereas a person with depression may not.

Depression affects more females than males. Research shows that one-third of females undergo a major depressive episode at some point during their life.

A 2020 study in The American Journal of Psychiatry reported that about twice as many females as males experience depression.

Research shows that 1 in 9 people experience postpartum depression after giving birth. Although it is common for a person to feel down for 3–5 days following childbirth, if these feelings of sadness or emptiness last more than 2 weeks, they may be a sign of postpartum depression.

According to the Office on Women’s Health, risk factors for postpartum depression include having:

  • a history or family history of depression or bipolar disorder
  • a lack of support from family and friends
  • had challenges with a previous pregnancy or birth
  • relationship or financial problems
  • an alcohol or drug use disorder
  • an infant with special needs
  • problems with nursing
  • an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy

A person’s biochemistry may make them more susceptible to depression. Some people have differences in certain chemicals in the brain that can play a role in the development of depression.

Additionally, depression may be linked to genes. For instance, if a person has an identical twin with depression, they have a 70% chance of experiencing the condition themselves.

A person may be more likely to become depressed if they have continual exposure to violence, neglect, abuse, or poverty. If a person goes through a major life change, regardless of whether it was planned, this can also result in them becoming depressed.

The CDC notes that having a medical condition, such as cancer or chronic pain, can increase a person’s chances of developing depression. Additionally, taking certain medications can make some people feel depressed.

Licensed mental health professionals may treat a person’s depression with therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Most people with depression experience symptom relief with treatment.

Depression is one of the most successfully treated mental health conditions, with 80–90% of people responding well to treatment.

Research has shown that there is a link between smoking and depression. Data show that individuals with depression are more likely to smoke.

According to research, people with mental health conditions smoke three out of every 10 cigarettes in the U.S. However, researchers need to carry out more research to understand the link between mental health and smoking.

Many individuals have depression alongside an anxiety disorder.

A person with an anxiety disorder experiences intense and uncontrollable anxiety, fear, worry, or panic, or a combination of these feelings. These feelings may last a long time and negatively affect a person’s ability to live their everyday life.

Depression is one of the main risk factors for suicide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is the fourth leading cause of death among people aged 15–29 years.

The WHO also notes that more than 700,000 people die by suicide each year.

Across the world, irrespective of a country’s wealth, misdiagnosis is common when it comes to depression. For instance, healthcare professionals may diagnose people without depression as having the condition and diagnose people with depression as having a different health condition.

This underlines what a complex condition depression is and shows how challenging it can be to diagnose.

According to a study in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, which looks at 2005 and 2010 data, major depressive disorder in the workplace costs more than $23 billion in lost workdays due to employees being absent every year.

In addition, people who continually show up for work despite being unwell with major depressive disorder cost the workplace nearly $79 billion in lost workdays every year.

The WHO’s Mental Health Gap Action Programme has made depression one of its priority conditions.

The organization set up the program to help countries train healthcare workers to provide more services for people with mental, neurological, and substance use disorders.

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions, but there are many myths surrounding it. Being aware of the symptoms and risk factors can help a person identify the signs in themselves and their loved ones.