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Epidemiology of depression in the Asia Pacific region


  • Professor Edmond Chiu AM

    Professor of Old Age Psychiatry, Academic Unit for Psychiatry of Old Age, University of Melbourne, Normanby House, St. George's Hospital, 283 Cotham Road, Kew Victoria 3101, Australia.

Correspondence: Professor Ian Hickie, Brain & Mind Research Institute, PO Box M160, Camperdown NSW 1450, Australia.


Objective: To summarise studies reporting rates of depression (for the general population and older samples) and suicide in the Asia Pacific region.

Methods: Information on local data was collected from the members of the SEBoD International Advisory Board on known epidemiological studies. Additionally, online searches were conducted using Medline and PsycInfo for the period 1994−2004.

Results: Across the Asia Pacific region, rates of current or 1-month major depression ranged from 1.3% to 5.5%, rates of major depression in the previous year ranged from 1.7% to 6.7%, and lifetime rates ranged from 1.1% to 19.9%, with a median of 3.7%. Rates of suicide in the Asia Pacific region are now similar to those in Europe and the Americas. The exceptions include China and South Korea.

Conclusions: Epidemiological studies in Asian populations are rare and use various diagnostic criteria. However, studies indicate that rates of depression in Asia Pacific, whilst lower, are comparable to other western countries. As such, depression as a health issue in Asia Pacific demands greater recognition. It is important that Asian countries should have the human and financial resources to conduct large scale epidemiological surveys not only in the area of depression, but also in the broader field of mental disorders.