KARACHI: The Pakistan Medical Association on Thursday said depression in the country was much higher than the world average while its incidence was alarmingly greater in urban centres than rural districts.

Declaring ‘Depression’ the theme of World Health Day this year, the PMA said mental problems in the country were growing, particularly in big cities.

“Around 35.7 per cent citizens of Karachi are affected with mental illness, while 43pc people in Quetta and 53.4pc in Lahore are also affected,” said Dr Qaisar Sajjad, secretary general of the PMA in a statement.

Globally, said the PMA, depression affected 20pc of people while in Pakistan it was more serious with an estimated 34pc of the population suffering from it.

“Both genetic and environmental factors play chiefly in its pathogenesis.”

World Health Day will be observed today (Friday) across the world.

The PMA said it took it as an opportunity to highlight the issue and create awareness of the disease among the people of Pakistan.

Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how one feels and the way one thinks and how one acts. “Fortunately, it is also treatable,” said the PMA official.

“Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities one enjoyed once. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.”

Dr Sajjad said a number of factors could augment the chance of depression. Past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse could cause depression later in life; and certain medications could increase risk of depression.

“Depression may result from personal conflicts or disputes with family members or friends. A family history of depression may increase the risk. Even good events such as starting a new job, graduating, or getting married can lead to depression. So can moving, losing a job or income, getting divorced, or retiring. Problems such as social isolation due to other mental illnesses or being cast out of a family or social group can lead to depression.”

He said depression affected the cities here more, which was in conformity with what was happening in the rest of the world’s cities, as the urban life alienated a person more than rural settings.

“Apart from these causes, power shortages, non-availability of potable water, unemployment, traffic jams, intolerance, insecurity, and law and order situation are also factors which increase depression day by day in our society.

“Even the way our channels broadcast breaking news increases depression.”

Experts said depression symptoms could vary from mild to severe and included feeling sad or having a depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, changes in appetite (weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting), trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, loss of energy or increased fatigue, increase in aimless physical activity [hand-wringing or pacing] or slowed movements and speech [actions observable by others], feeling worthless or guilty, difficulty in thinking, concentrating or making decisions, and thinking about death or committing suicide.

Prof S. Haroon Ahmed said the prevalence of depressive disorder in Pakistan was more than 40pc with women accounting for 57.5pc while more than a quarter of men in the country were depressed.

The PMA said as depression was the root cause of many mental disorders and sickness, there was a need to develop a policy to tackle anxiety and depressive disorders on a national scale.

“Steps need to be taken to overcome the dearth of qualified psychiatrists in the country.”

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2017

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