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Depression "worse than diabetes"

Depression can cause greater harm to people than long-term physical diseases, new research claims.

The mental illness affects sufferers' wellbeing more than arthritis, angina, diabetes, and asthma, a study published in The Lancet found.

The authors compared the health impact of depression with chronic physical illnesses, and said their findings show there is an urgent need to improve treatment worldwide.

Saba Moussavi, from the World Health Organization (WHO), and his colleagues said depression must now be addressed as a public health priority.

The study used WHO World Health Survey data from 250,000 people living in 60 countries, and adjusted it to account for social and economic circumstances and other existing health conditions.

Previous studies have claimed depression will have the biggest disabling effect of any disease worldwide.

The disorder is often associated with other chronic illnesses, and as the world's population lives longer, it is expected to become more prevalent.

In 2000, scientists rated depression as the disease which had the fourth highest public health impact across the globe, but by 2020 it is predicted to have jumped to second place.

It is estimated that around one in every five women, and one in every 10 men will suffer from depression at some point in their lives.

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The Lancet