How many people in Europe suffer from depression?

  • A. 5%
  • B. 25%
  • C. 45%

Correct answer

In 2015, 44.3 million people—5.1% of the total population—suffered from depression in Europe, according to the World Health Organization. Option B (25%) would better describe the lifetime risk of depression, rather than the number of people suffering from depression at a specific point in time. Thinking that 45% of the population suffer from depression is just crazy… that would be like every second person around you!

Another data source, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) show that 4.2% of people in Europe suffered from depression in 2017, followed by the Western Pacific region (3.9%), the Americas (3.8%), the Eastern Mediterranean region (3.5%), South-East Asia (3.3%), and Africa (2.9%). No matter which data source we use, Europe is the most highly affected region.

Data source

The evidence for the correct answer comes from the World Health Organization:,

Europeans don’t realize how unusual depression is

The results for this question were terrible, just like almost all the others from this study. Only 15% of the people we surveyed answered this question correctly. That’s worse than the chimps yet again, who (as usual) managed 33% correct answers. German respondents were the “least bad” this time with 19% correct, followed by France with 16%, and the United Kingdom with measly 12%.

Why do people pick the wrong answer?

Because they think that this is a BIG problem! Mental health issues are often covered by the media as well as a variety of non-governmental organizations. Unfortunately, in many cases the phrases “depression” and “mental health” are used interchangeably, leading many people to confuse the two.

And, as explained above, there’s a big difference between the proportion of people suffering from depression within a single year compared to “at some point in their lives”.

Ultimately, it’s true that depression and other mental health disorders are a huge problem, as well as the incapacity of some of our health systems to meet the needs of patients who suffer from them. But yet again, it just isn’t as big a problem as we think it is. It is possible for us to address this without being overwhelmed.