Medical science describes depression as a mood disorder, a medical illness of the brain. It involves more than feeling a little “down.” In fact, it can be very hard to deal with and can go on for months or even years. More than 20 million people in the United States cope with depression. Estimates suggest two million to six million older Americans suffer from the disease. Directly and indirectly, depression costs the nation more than $30 billion per year.

Depression is the leading cause of disability in high-income countries and the fourth leading cause of disability in the world. Not only does depression raise the chances of suicide, but it also contributes to death from other problems such as cardiovascular disorders and accidents.

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Reviewer: Mary A. Whooley, MD, Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center