Depression is the second leading cause of global disability burden, according to a recent study published in the medical journal Public Library of Science: Medicine (PLOS).
By comparing depression with more than 200 other diseases and injuries known to cause disability, the PLOS study found clinical depression is a global public health priority, second only to back pain.
The impact of depression varied across different countries and regions, with a number of factors influencing the rate of reporting the condition.
"The burden is different between countries, so it tends to be higher in low and middle income countries and lower in some high income countries," study author Dr Alize Ferrari from the University of Queensland's School of Population Health told BBC News in a November 6 article.
Depression was difficult to measure in terms of disability as stigma attached to the illness leads to a number of people not recognising the burden it creates.
What one person may feel is disabling might be different to another person. There are also many cultural implications and interpretations that could influence reporting of the condition, Dr Alize said.
"This makes it all the more important to raise awareness of the size of the problem and also signs and how to detect it," she continued.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that 3 million Australians reported having a mental illness in 2011-12. Mood altering problems, such as depression, were the most common with 2.1 million people affected.
This means that 9.7 per cent of the Australian population were dealing with depression or a similar illness in 2011-12.
"Depression is a big problem and we definitely need to pay more attention to it than we are now," Dr Alize said.
The PLOS study acknowledged that some efforts are being made to bring depression to the forefront of global policy, but there is still much more that needs to be done.
"There's still more work to be done in terms of awareness of the disease and also in coming up with successful ways of treating it," said Dr Alize.
Commenting on the study, Dr Daniel Chisholm, a health economist at the department for mental health and substance abuse at the World Health Organisation, said although depression is a major public health challenge, only a tiny proportion of sufferers get any sort of treatment or diagnosis.
With depression being such a large global burden, now is a good time to consider how mental illness could affect your organisation's corporate health and wellbeing.
If you are wondering how to encourage employees to seek help for depression and other mood-altering disorders, consider business health insurance. This can make managing health and wellbeing in your organisation simple and accessible.