Kiwis among the worst for rates of depression

17:00, Jul 26 2011

Child poverty and our national alcohol addiction may be feeding into New Zealand's internationally high rates of depression, uncovered in an international study.

Research published in the international journal BMC Medicine yesterday shows that of 18 countries, New Zealand consistently ranked in the top 25 per cent on nearly every measure of depression.

Among the 10 high-income countries included, New Zealanders ranked second for people experiencing a major depressive episode in the 12 months before the survey and fourth for people having suffered a depressive episode in their lifetime.

The results were based on data collected from 89,000 people around the world.

Overall, the study showed 15 per cent of people in high-income countries suffered depression at some point in their life, compared with 11 per cent of people in low to middle-income countries.

"It has been suggested that depression is to some extent an illness of affluence," the study's authors said.

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Kate Scott, an associate professor of psychological medicine at Otago University Wellington, was one of the editors of the New Zealand Mental Health Survey.

She said there was no easy answer as to why New Zealand had such high rates of depression, but childhood adversity and alcohol addiction could play a part.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said international comparisons were not always helpful.

"Higher rates of depression in countries can be affected by a number of factors, including more people willing to seek help."

New Zealand was "basically on par" with other Western countries, she said. However, that did not mean New Zealand had low rates of depression or that mental health did not require attention.

The Dominion Post