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The Economic and Social Burden of Depression

Norman Sartorius

Published: December 1, 2001

Article Abstract

Depressive disorders are a major public health problem. They occur frequently and produce severesuffering for those affected and for their families. They are ubiquitous and appear at all ages. The consequencesof depressive disorders in terms of excessive mortality, disability, and secondary morbidityare grave. There are indications that the frequency of depressive disorders will increase in the years tocome, for a variety of reasons, including demographic changes, extended life expectancy of peoplesuffering from chronic physical disorders, and iatrogenic causes. The essential criterion for designatinga condition as a major public health problem—that there should be an effective intervention thatwill diminish or eliminate the problem—has now also been met. Recent years have seen the developmentof a variety of new treatments that can be applied even in situations where highly specializedmental health staff are scarce. These developments make training in the use of new treatment methodsof proven value and their wide application a public health priority and an ethical obligation. The presentationwill discuss these issues on the basis of accumulated evidence and experience.

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