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Depression: greater effect on overall health than angina, arthritis, asthma or diabetes

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Dr Somnath Chatterji

Correspondence to: Dr Somnath Chatterji, Department of Measurement and Health Information Systems, World Health Organization, Geneva 27, Switzerland;



How do people rate the effects of depression on their overall health status in comparison to angina, arthritis, asthma and diabetes?


245 404 inhabitants of 60 countries.


Global study representing people from 60 countries (26 from the European region, 15 from the African region, six from the Americas, four from the eastern Mediterranean region, five from the southeast Asia region and four from the western Pacific region); time period not stated.


Face-to-face interviews were conducted with the majority of participants in their home countries using the standardised WHO World Health Survey (WHO WHS) that collected demographic information and used 16 health-related questions assessing eight health domains (including vision, mobility, cognition, pain, etc) to derive an overall health score. The overall health score ranged from 0 (worst health) to 100 (best health). The WHO WHS also …

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  • Notes: Although the authors attempted to address this, it remains a possibility that having depression biased overall health scores because of a tendency to report things more negatively than those without depression with the same level of health. Importantly, the study did not assess or control for duration of illness—a factor which is likely to impact on overall health status. Only depression and angina diagnoses were based on validated algorithms. False negative diagnoses of asthma and arthritis cannot be ruled out.

  • Source of funding: World Health Organization.

  • ▸ An additional table is published online only at


  • Competing interests: None.