Understanding depression
Treating depression
Consequences of depression

What is Depression?

Depression is a common mental health condition that can happen to anyone.

Depression can cause a person to feel low in their mood, and this can last for weeks, months and in some cases years.

Depression is recognised as a leading cause of disability worldwide. The World Health Organisation has projected that depression will rank first, as the leading cause of burden of disease worldwide by 2030.

What are the different types of depression?

Depression can be: mild, moderate or severe.

In America, severe depression is known as major depressive disorder.

Some people experience severe depression with psychotic symptoms.

Depression can be episodic, or recurrent.

Depression that persists for more than 2 years is referred to as persistent depressive disorder, or dysthymia.
Further subtypes of depression include post-natal or postpartum depression. This is depression that is sometimes known as “baby blues”, and occurs soon after the birth of a child. It is frequently reported in mothers, but it can also occur in fathers. It is very important to look out for postpartum depression because this condition can adversely affect both parents, the family unit and the developing child.

Another subtype of depression is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is depression that follows a seasonal pattern, with symptoms being more severe during the winter months. It is sometimes known as “winter depression”.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the prevalence of depression?

In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global prevalence of depression increased by 25%. Young people, women, andpeople with pre-existing physical health conditions were found to be disproportionately at risk of developing depressionduring the COVID-19 pandemic.

How common is depression?

Globally, it is estimated that 5% of adults have been affected by depression. This equates to roughly 280 million people worldwide.

15% of women receive treatment for depression, compared to 9% of men.

What are the causes of depression?

Depression is a complicated condition with several possible causes, and can occur because of a combination of different factors.

The causes of depression

Genetic factors

Stressful childhood experiences

Difficult social circumstances

Adverse life events

Personality traits

Physical illness

Chronic illness

Hormonal changes

Sleep conditions, especially chronic insomnia, and obstructive sleep apnoea

Other psychiatric illnesses

Certain medications

Can depression be treated?

Yes, depression is a condition that responds to treatment.

What are my treatment options if I have depression?

There are many treatment options for depression, and treatment depends on the severity of the depression.

Your doctor may recommend that you undergo blood tests to screen for any physical causes of depression.

Treatment options include:

• Addressing any physical causes of depression
• Psychological therapy (talking therapy)
• Seeking social support
• Optimising nutrition
• Exercising regularly
• Reducing alcohol intake and avoiding illicit drugs
• Antidepressant medications
• Lithium
• Complimentary medicine
• Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
• Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
• Vagus nerve stimulation
• Esketamine nasal spray


It’s important to work closely with your health care provider to put together a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs, and in accordance with the nature and severity of your depression.

Types of clinical depression

Major depressive disorder
Postpartum depression
Seasonal affective disorder
Bipolar depression
Psychotic depression
Atypical depression

Is it possible to recover from depression without taking medication?

People can recover from depression without taking antidepressants.

What are the consequences of untreated depression?


Increased risk of developing high blood pressure

Increased risk of heart attack

Increased risk of stroke

Increased pain sensitivity

Weakened immune system

Increased risk of becoming overweight or underweight

Poorer control of diabetes

Increased risk of sexual dysfunction

Increased risk of overall mortality

Statistics may not paint the full picture about depression, because they do not include people who are undiagnosed and untreated.

What are the physical health consequences of depression?
Depression has a number of physical health consequences including:

Historically, depression was referred to as melancholia

Are there any other consequences of Depression?

People experiencing severe depression are up to 20 times more likely to attempt, or die by suicide.

Romans and ancient Greek physicians treated depression with exercise, massage, music, hydrotherapy and a form of behavioural therapy.