Updated 04 July 2014

More South Africans diagnosed with depression

The number of professionals diagnosed with depression in South Africa has increased significantly, according to Profmed medical scheme.


The number of professionals diagnosed with depression has increased significantly, according to Profmed medical scheme.

"Depression and bipolar disorders form part of the top 15 diagnosis codes used, and contribute to some of the highest psychiatric benefits used during the 2013 service period," Profmed principal officer Graham Anderson said in a statement posted on the Profmed website.

Profmed’s member profiles in 2013, compared with last year, showed a 50% increase in those diagnosed with severe depressive episodes without psychotic symptoms.

There was also a 75% increase in Profmed members suffering from a severe depressive episode with psychotic symptoms for the same period.

It was not immediately clear how large the sample size (Profmed's membership) was. The medical scheme caters only for graduate professionals.

Many go untreated

Anderson said it was concerning that only 16% of the South African population had medical aid, as public health facilities were not always equipped with staff and appropriate medication to deal with such patients.

"Like any illness, it is imperative that treatment for mental illness is provided in the public healthcare system to allow people the opportunity to lead normal and successful lives."

The importance of mental health issues, and potential consequences for productivity, was being more widely acknowledged in the workplace.

"A better understanding of these disorders and the fact that they can be very effectively treated has led to the decrease in the stigma that existed for people who were diagnosed with these ailments in the past."

Anderson said people frequently overlooked the importance of mental health to overall well-being.

"It’s therefore critical for South Africans to take the necessary precautions; ensure that they maintain a balanced lifestyle and know when to take some time off when needed; follow healthy eating patterns and exercise regularly to manage their stress factors better."


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Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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