SA ‘depressed’

2011-10-25 10:50

Economic instability is the leading cause behind an increase in anxiety and depression in South Africa, a new study has found.

“People are living in chronic fear of lay-offs and/or life-long unemployment,” said the company which conducted the survey, released today.

Pharma Dynamics, a distributor of central nervous system medication, polled 19 psychiatrists across the country to gauge to gauge South Africa’s collective mental state.

Spokesperson Mariska Fouche said figures from the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) showed one in five South Africans suffered from anxiety and depression.

This was set to rise as the economic situation worsened.

“If not properly addressed, chronic stress and other mental health problems jeopardise the health and wellbeing of South Africans and of the nation as a whole,” said Fouche.

The survey found more South Africans were being confronted by poverty due to the unfavourable economic situation.

This even applied to the well-educated who had the potential to be highly productive.

Findings supported a figure quoted in a recent SADAG report which showed that only 27% of people who reported mental illness ever received appropriate treatment.

This meant nearly three-quarters were not accessing any form of mental health care.

Fouche said that despite significant gains in the availability of effective depression treatment over the past decade, the level of the unmet need for treatment remained high.

“Nine out of ten psychiatrists, who participated in the poll, confirmed that people living with severe depression delay receiving treatment, in some cases for nearly a decade,” she said.

“They named stigma and the fear of being rejected and treated differently by family, friends and co-workers among the main motivations for postponing treatment,” she said.

The incidence of depression remained high among women, but this did not mean men were unaffected.

“Historically men avoid being labelled and therefore tend to turn towards substance or alcohol abuse to help them cope,” said Fouche.

Psychiatrists polled also reported a significant increase in children suffering from depression compared to a decade ago.

This was particularly prevalent in children from lower income families.

Maternal stress, prenatal smoke exposure and genetic susceptibility could also play a role, Fouche said. 

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