Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Depression Health Center

Font Size

Richer Countries Have Higher Depression Rates

Study Shows U.S. Has World's Second Highest Depression Rate
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

July 26, 2011 -- Depression rates around the world vary according to a nation's affluence, with the highest income countries -- including the U.S. -- reporting the highest levels of depression, a study shows.

For the study, an international team working with the World Health Organization's World Mental Health Survey Initiative interviewed nearly 90,000 people in eighteen countries. The researchers assessed their mental health using criteria for major depressive episode (MDE).

The study is published in BMC Medicine.

The World Health Organization estimates that depression affects 121 million people worldwide. In the 10 higher income countries surveyed, an average of nearly 15% of the population had suffered from depression at least once in their lives. By contrast, people living in low to middle income countries reported an 11% likelihood of having had the disease.

At 19.2%, the U.S. had the second highest lifetime rate of depression. Only France, at 21%, had a greater frequency of the disease. Among the high-income countries, Japan, Germany, Italy, and Israel reported the smallest percentages, ranging from under 7% to 10%.

Low to middle income countries, by contrast, reported much lower rates overall. China (6.5%) and Mexico (8%) had the smallest percentage of lifetime incidence of depression. Only Brazil, at 18.4%, approached the level of depression in the U.S.

The researchers also measured the rates of depression that occurred in the year preceding the survey. Brazil had the highest level overall; an estimated 10% of its population experienced depression in the previous year. The United States, with the second highest rates, reported an 8.3% rate. Japan, Germany, and Italy had the lowest 12-month rates.

Depression at a Young Age

People in the U.S. also appear to suffer from depression at an earlier age than people in other high-income countries. The median age for the onset of the disease in the U.S. was 22.7. In New Zealand, the next earliest, the median was 24.2. Spain and Japan had the latest average age of onset at 30 and 30.1, respectively. Out of all countries, both high and low income, China had the youngest depressed population. The age of onset there was 18.8.

Today on WebMD

Differences between feeling depressed and feeling blue.
jk rowling
Famous people who've struggled with persistent sadness.
depressed man sitting on hallway floor
Learn the truth about this serious illness.
Sad woman looking out of the window
Tips to stay the treatment course.
unhappy teen boy
Health Check
jk rowling
Pills with smiley faces
Teen girl huddled outside house
Depressed man sitting in hospital hallway
antidepressants slideshow
pill bottle
Winding path