Depression and Disability: A Comparative Perspective

It’s been quite some time since we last wrote about depression in this blog. Last winter, in our February 7 post, we discussed the successful appeal of an initially rejected claim for Social Security disability benefits in which one of the disabling conditions was depression adjustment disorder.

Of course, depression is a broad term. It refers to a complex set of conditions that take many different forms. In this post, we are seeking a broad comparative perspective on disability and depression. We are seeking to put in context what a recent research suggests: that depression ranks behind only back pain as a cause of disability around the world.

The research study was published in a journal called PLOS Medicine. Its findings have been widely circulated by the BBC and other news outlets.

The leader of the comparative research study, Dr. Alize Ferrari of Australia, told the BBC that one of the challenges in tackling the issue of depression is the stigma that the condition often carries. It is therefore important not only to seek out more effective ways of treating depression, but also to raise awareness about how serious a problem depression is for so many people worldwide.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is very concerned about depression. The organization has begun an initiative to sensitize policy makers to the need for more treatment resources.

To be sure, depression is not always so severe that it becomes a disabling condition. But the lack of adequate treatment resources makes it more difficult to treat depression properly and minimize the number of cases in which it becomes disabling.

In terms of U.S. Social Security disability law, the recognition of depression as a possible cause of disability reflects the trend in recent years to recognize mental conditions as well as physical ones as potentially disabling.

Source: BBC News, “Depression: ‘Second biggest cause of disability’ in world,” Helen Briggs, Nov. 5, 2013