Understanding depression in Asia

Originally published 16 September 2014 on Nikkei Asian Review.

As humans, we tend to chase after the global notion of “success” while neglecting its true value, which isn’t fame, fortune or power but “emotional well-being.”

According to the World Health Organization’s first report on suicide prevention, released Sept. 4, 803,900 people died by suicide worldwide in 2012. Of them, 39.1% were in low- and middle-income countries in the WHO South-East Asia region, which includes India, Indonesia, Thailand and North Korea; 16.3% were in the WHO Western Pacific Region, which encompasses China, Vietnam and Mongolia. Including Japan, where some 30,000 people committed suicide that year, Asia made up about 60% of global cases.

Experts say this large share is due to suicide being relatively under-researched in Asian countries, with limited preventive measures in place compared with the West.

However, a recently published study featuring 547 participants with major depressive disorder from China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, sheds light on MDD and its link to suicide.

The study was conducted from 2008 to 2011 by a team from 13 institutions and members of the Mood Disorders Research: Asian and Australian Network. It included a survey focusing on how so-called melancholic features, hostility, and socio-demographic factors are associated with suicide risk in MDD patients.

Nikkei Asian Review, September 2014.