The study based on the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative, which says that India has the highest rate of major depression in the world, has been rubbished by Union Health Ministry officials, who said that the figures are not representative of the pan India scenario.
The study, ‘Cross-national epidemiology of DSM-IV major depressive episode’, based on interviews of nearly 90,000 subjects across 18 countries with different income levels, was published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Medicine by Biomed Central.
According to the study, the average lifetime rates of depression were found to be 14.6 per cent in 10 high income countries, and 11.1 per cent in eight low- to middle-income countries. Lifetime incidents of what was identified as Major Depressive Episodes (MDE), were highest among Indians — at 35.9 per cent.
Indian officials on Wednesday said the figure did not represent the entire country. A total of 11 centres across India participated in WHO’s Mental Health Survey conducted from 2000-05, under the aegis of the Union Health Ministry. But ministry authorities said AIIMS, which was entrusted with the task of tabulating the data, did not forward the data of all the centres to the Harvard Medical School, nodal centre of the survey.
Confirming this, Dr Rajesh Sagar, associate professor of psychiatry at AIIMS and incharge of the WHO’s survey in India, said, “Data was only sent from JIPMER, Puducherry. So it is incorrect to say that this particular study represented the entire country.” He declined to give reasons why data from other centres, including AIIMS, NIMHANS in Bangalore, PGI in Chandigarh and the Central Institute of Psychiatry in Ranchi, were not considered fit for the study.
The sample size of the Indian subjects in both phases of the study was nearly half the average sample size among the 18 countries. While the average sample size in phase one of the study was 4946.50, a total of 2,992 Indian subjects were reported for it. In phase two, 1,373 subjects were studied, compared to an average of 2586.77.
Dean of Research at AIIMS Dr A B Dey said officially, AIIMS was not responsible for the Indian figures reported since the study was not authored by any faculty at the institute. The Indian author of the study was Dr Jagdish Kaur from the Directorate General of Health Services.
Senior officials at the ministry said though the percentages of MDE who were screen positive for depression were highest