This website is made possible by third party financial support from Sage Therapeutics, Inc. and Biogen Inc.

This website is made possible by third party financial support from Sage Therapeutics, Inc. and Biogen Inc.

The Disease Burden of Depression

The Disease Burden of Depression

February 26, 2021

Depression is a common illness and a leading cause of disability that most patients experience more than once in a lifetime.

disease burden

Incidence & Prevalence

The incidence of major depression worldwide increase from 162 million in 1990 to 241 million in 2017, an increase of 49.86%.1  More than 19 million adults in the United States (US), nearly 8% of the population, have experience at least one major depressive episode within the past year.2 Depression affects 1 in every fifteen adults (6.7%) each year.3 Within their lifetime, 1 in six people (16.6%) will experience depression.3 While some individuals may only experience one major depressive episode in their life, most patients experience recurring depression.2

Depression can occur at any point in a person’s lifetime but is most commonly first diagnosed in the late teens to mid-20s.3 Globally, individuals aged 70 or older are most likely to experience depression (6.24% prevalence) but in the United States the prevalence of depression is greatest in individuals aged 20 to 24 (6.67% prevalence).4,5 Women are more likely than men to experience depression.3 Some data suggests that up to 1/3rd of women will experience at least one major depressive episode during their life.3 Depression is highly heritable, up to 40%, when a person has a first-degree relative with depression.3

Disability Burden

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists depression as the single largest factor that contribute to global disability.6  Disability burden includes psychosocial and workdays lost.

The Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) is used to measure disease burden, it takes both mortality and years lived with disability or health burden into account. In 2017, the DALYs for patients with depression was 736.86 per 100,000 persons.7

Mortality Burden

Mortality burden is comprised of multiple different factors, two of which are suicide and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular related deaths.

In 2010, there were more than 2.2 million deaths attributable to depression alone.8

The standardized mortality ration for suicide in patients with depression is 20.9 in men and 27.0 in women.9 Adolescents who experience depression are 30 times more likely to commit suicide.10

A study of patients (n = 896) who were hospitalized for a myocardial infarction were found to have an increased risk of cardiac death, which was positively correlated with the severity of depression based off the patient’s Beck Depression Inventory score, over the next 5 years.11


  1. Liu Q, He Hairong, Yang J, et al. Changes in the global burden of depression from 1990 to 2017: findings from the global burden of disease study. Journal of Psychiatric Research. 2020;126:134-140. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2019.08.002
  2. Depression. National Alliance on Mental Health. Updated August 2017. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  3. What is depression? American Psychiatric Association. Updated October 2020. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  4. Prevalence of depression by age, World, 2017. Our World in Data. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  5. Prevalence of depression by age, United States, 2017. Our World in Data. Accessed January 26 2021.
  6. Smith, K. Mental health: a world of depression. Nature. November 12, 2014. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  7. Depressive disorder DALYS, age-standardized rate, 1990 to 2017. Our World in Data. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  8. Patel V, Chisholm D, Parikh R, et al. Addressing the burden of mental, neurological, and substance use disorders: key messages from Disease Control Priorities, 3rd edition. Lancet. 2016;387:1672-85 doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)00390-6
  9. Ösby U, Brandt L, Correia N, Ekbom A, Sparén P. Excess Mortality in Bipolar and Unipolar Disorder in Sweden. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2001;58(9):844–850.
  10. Stringaris A. Editorial: What is depression? The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2017;58(12):1287-1289. Doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12844
  11. Lesperance F, Frasure-Smith N, Talajic M, Bourassa MG. Five-year risk of cardiac mortality in relation to initial severity and one-year changes in depression symptoms after myocardial infarction.