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Physical Symptoms of Depression as a Public Health Concern

Norman Sartorius, MD, PhD

Published: June 1, 2003

Article Abstract

Depressive disorders are a public health problem. They occur frequently, and it is highly likely thattheir prevalence will grow in the years to come. Depressive disorders can have severe consequences interms of suffering, disability, and increased mortality, particularly if left untreated. They are present inall cultural settings and present a major difficulty for the normal functioning of patients’ families.A large proportion of people with depressive disorders do not get treatment, and a major reason depressivedisorders go unrecognized is that they often present mainly physical symptoms. The fact thatdepression often co-occurs with physical illness further complicates the diagnosis and treatment ofdepressive disorders. Better undergraduate education of medical students and general education forthe public in understanding and treating depressive disorders could considerably improve the prognosisof patients suffering from these illnesses.

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