Treatment rates for depression remain low worldwide, study finds

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Experts say more countries need to ramp up mental health treatments

In new research, experts broke down what treatment rates for major depressive disorder look like around the world. Their work showed that treatment rates remain low across the globe, with the biggest disparities coming in low- and middle-income countries. 

“Treatment coverage for major depressive disorder continues to be low globally, with many individuals failing to receive a level of care consistent with practice guideline recommendations,” said researcher Alize Ferrari. “This highlights the need to reconsider the availability of appropriate care and facilitators of treatment as we respond to the large burden imposed by this disorder.” 

Disparities in mental health care

To better understand what treatment for depression looks like around the world, the researchers analyzed nearly 150 earlier studies from 84 countries that were conducted between 2000 and 2021. 

The researchers observed that treatment rates for depression continue to be low around the world. It’s also important to note that there are significant disparities in treatment rates depending on a country's income level, with low-income countries having even lower depression treatment rates. The treatment rate in high-income countries topped out at 33%, whereas that figure was under 10% in low-income countries. 

The study also found that women were more likely than men to seek out mental health treatments. Older study participants were also more likely than younger participants to start depression treatment. 

The researchers explained that these findings point to a global issue related to mental health care – especially for consumers in low-income countries. While it’s not uncommon in high-income areas for consumers to have access to dedicated mental health institutions and resources, the same isn’t true for all countries across the world.

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