Depression affecting 30 million people across the EU

Depression has a huge impact on the daily lives of sufferers and, according to Jutta Steinruck, it's the duty of policymakers to address the growing problem.

By Jutta Steinruck

29 Sep 2014

On 1 October, we mark European depression day 2014 throughout Europe. Together with the European depression association, this year we are discussing the impact that depression has on the family and on the role that we, as European policymakers, can play in addressing depression in our daily jobs. According to the world health organisation, depression has become the main cause of disability worldwide, affecting 350 million people, most of whom are working age adults. In Europe alone, more than 30 million people suffer from depression, making it one of the top three causes of disease burden in all EU member states.

Within my role on parliament's employment and social affairs committee, I want to encourage my fellow colleagues, the European commission and the council of the European Union to fight depression in Europe. We must, as politicians, address all the issues that make depression such a threat to our society, including stigma, prevention, adequate access to diagnosis and treatment.

"In Europe, an estimated one of every 10 working people takes time off every year because of depression"

Depression is a severe and complex medical condition characterised by symptoms such as sadness, concentration difficulties, indecisiveness or forgetfulness. One in two people with depression are untreated and the risk of dying prematurely for people suffering from depression is 40 per cent – 60 per cent greater than the general population.

Depression has a corrosive effect on the individual's ability to function at home, at work and within everyday social networks. In Europe, an estimated one of every 10 working people takes time off every year because of depression. Costs due to mental ill health are estimated to rise up to 3-4.5 per cent of the EU's GDP, with depression alone costing Europe's businesses almost €92bn per year in loss of productivity due to, for example, sick leave and early retirement.

The impact of depression in the workplace is too high and is even increasing due to the changing world of work systems. We have an obligation under the treaties to protect the physical and mental health of all Europeans and we can drive change by including depression in all relevant policies, starting with the protection of the mental health of employees, for example, in the forthcoming review of the framework directive on health and safety at work. Join me and the European depression association in the #depressionfight on 1 October.