WHO report reveals 2m Kenyans are depressed

Sunday February 26 2017

A depressed teen. A World Health Organisation report in February ranked Kenya sixth with the highest number of depression cases among African countries. PHOTOSEARCH


Kenya has been ranked sixth with the highest number of depression cases among African countries by a World Health Organisation report.

In the report released last Friday, a total of 1.9 million depression cases were reported in Kenya by last year.

The report indicates that the number of people with depression has increased by 18 per cent from 2005.

The report dubbed Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders, Global Health Estimates states that cases of depressive disorders are high in Nigeria, with more than seven million people affected, followed by Ethiopia with four million, Democratic Republic of Congo is in the third position with 2.8 million cases.

South Africa and Kenya follow with 2.4 million and 1.9 million respectively. Seychelles recorded the lowest number of people affected by depression at 3,722.

“Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression. It is the leading cause of disability and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease,” says a report


“More women are affected by depression than men and the prevalence varies by regions, from a low of 2.6 per cent among males in Western Pacific region to 5.9 per cent among females in Africa,” adds the report.

Depression also varies by age, peaking in older adulthood and also occurs in children and adolescents below the age of 15 years.

WHO said it will focus on depression on the World Health Day, which is celebrated on April 7.

“Depression may become a serious health condition. It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at work, school and in the family. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide,” it says.


According to the report, close to 800,000 people die annually due to suicide, the second leading cause of death in 15 to 29- year-olds.

The report says poverty and unemployment are the major factors that contribute to depression. Other factors are physical illness, life events such as death of a loved one and drug abuse.

Dr Catherine Syengo Mutisya, the head of substance abuse and management in the Ministry of Health, said since most of the people depressed in Kenya are concealed, there are no clear records on the exact number affected.

“The number by the report could be more because depression leads to suicide and since suicide is a crime in the country, it is often concealed,” she said.

“We are seeing a new trend among the youth, probably because they cannot adjust to everyday stress, especially among school children who commit suicide mostly because of failing exams, as well as young jobless adults and those in relational crises,” she noted.

According to the report, psychosocial treatments are effective for mild depression. “Antidepressants can be an effective form of treatment for moderate-severe depression but are not the first line of treatment for cases of mild depression. They should not be used for treating depression in children,” adds the report.