'One in three Ugandans suffers from Depression'

One in three Ugandans suffers from Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders, globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally, about 5% of adults suffer from depression. This translates to over 280 million people in the world with depression. The burden of depression is even much higher among older persons aged 60 years or more. Depression […]

Health Blog
November 16, 2022

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders, globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally, about 5% of adults suffer from depression. This translates to over 280 million people in the world with depression. The burden of depression is even much higher among older persons aged 60 years or more. Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Generally, more women are affected by depression than men.

What is the burden of depression in Uganda?

Several studies have been conducted to estimate the burden of depression in Uganda. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of 127 papers, comprising a total of 123,859 individuals, of data collected between 2000 and 2021 from 45 districts in Uganda showed that almost one in three individuals in Uganda has depression, with the refugee population being disproportionately affected. Most of the studies were conducted in the capital city, Kampala (n = 43), followed by the districts of Mbarara (n = 23) and Gulu (n = 16). Most studies were conducted among individuals living with HIV (n = 43; 33.9%). The pooled prevalence of depression was 30.2%. This study showed that the prevalence of depression was higher during the COVID-19 pandemic than during the pre-pandemic period (48.1% vs. 29.3%). Refugees had the highest prevalence of depression at about 68%, followed by war victims at 36 %, individuals living with HIV at 28%, postpartum or pregnant mothers at 26.9%, university students at 26.9%, children and adolescents at 23.6%, and caregivers of patients at18.5%. Overall, this study shows a huge burden of depression in Uganda and that the burden of the disease varies with the population studied.

Link to published paper: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0276552

What are the symptoms of depression?

There are several symptoms of depression. The most common being feeling of low mood (feeling sad, irritable, empty) or a loss of pleasure or interest in previously pleasurable activities, for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks. Other symptoms include poor concentration, feelings of excessive guilt or low self-worth, hopelessness about the future, thoughts about dying or suicide, disrupted sleep, changes in appetite or weight, and feeling especially tired or low in energy. Depression can lead to suicide. Therefore, all people diagnosed with depression should be screened for suicidal ideation. Asking a person about suicide intentions has not been shown to increase the likelihood of suicide attempt or completion.

In conclusion, depression is a common disorder among Ugandans. There is effective treatment for mild, moderate, and severe depression. However, depression is often overlooked, and despite availability of effective medical treatment, more than 75% of people in low- and middle-income countries receive no treatment.

Author: Dr. Bongomin Felix

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