How depressed are the Dutch?

How depressed are the Dutch?

A new study has found that the Dutch have very high rates of depressive disorders compared to the rest of Europe.

The newly published article "Burden of Depressive Disorders by Country, Sex, Age, and Year" is based on the results of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, and is considered the world's most comprehensive study of discomfort and death from disease.

According to their findings, depression is increasing worldwide, with the number of years that people suffered from depression rising by over 37 per cent since 1990.

Depressive disorders are also a leading cause of the global disease burden and a contributor to suicide and ischemic heart disease.

What are depressive disorders?

Depressive disorders are common mental disorders that occur in all types of people all over the world.

Depression is described as an overwhelming feeling of sadness and hopelessness that can last for months or years. Major depressive disorder (MDD, also known as clinical depression) is an episodic disorder with a chronic (long-term) outcome and increased risk of death.

Dysthymia is a milder, chronic form of depression that lasts for at least two years. People with dysthymia are often described as constantly unhappy.

Depression in the Netherlands

Nearly 10 per cent of the total of what researchers called "years lived with disability" (YLDs) were due to suffering from depression. Worldwide, only back and neck problems blight more years (14,8 per cent of YLDs).

In the Netherlands, depression has a substantially higher share, accounting for more than 16 per cent of YLDs. That means that for every 100.000 years, more than 1.850 are lived suffering from depression.

In comparison, Afghanistan has the highest rates, with over 4.800 depressed YLDs our of 100.000. Japan has the least.

It's about perception...

Jan Swinkels, a psychiatrist and professor at the University of Amsterdam, said to the Volkskrant that people should not draw too many conclusions from the Netherlands' high score.

"It is mainly about perception," he said. "Culture plays an important role. We are a gloomy people, but that does not mean that we need more help than the Germans or the Belgians. A great deal also depends on the individual context."

According to Swinkels, Japan has such low rates of depression because "their culture requires that you should not be depressed."

Despite the differences in percentages, the researches made the point that by a margin of uncertainty, the high and low scoring countries do not differ significantly from the global average.

It is nevertheless quite a startling difference to the most recent Global Happiness Report, which found that the Netherlands was the fourth happiest nation.

Alexandra Gowling


Alexandra Gowling

Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in Asia before coming to the Netherlands a year ago. She enjoys writing, reading...

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