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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 50 (2008) 10, 655 - 665

Review article

The epidemiology of depression in Belgium. A review and some reflections for the future

R. Bruffaerts, A. Bonnewyn, K. Demyttenaere

background Little is known on epidemiological aspects of depression in the Belgian general population, despite the fact that this disorder is known as a burdensome disorder.
aim To present the results of a systematic literature search on the epidemiological aspects of depression in Belgium: prevalence, impact on daily life, and service use.
method A systematic literature search was performed using 'epidemiology', 'prevalence' and 'depression', 'Belgium' in PubMed, PsychInfo, International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS), the (interactive) database of the National Health Survey and in so-called 'grey literature'.
results Twenty two reports were included in the study. Depression is a common disorder that yields an enormous impact on daily life, on both work loss and suicidality. The proportion of persons seeking help was generally very low, with only 14% making a first treatment contact in the year of the disorder onset. Lifetime treatment rates were about 94%.
conclusion Despite the high prevalence and significant impact of depression in daily life, delays between disorder onset and seeking help are impressive. Primary prevention of depression seems rather limited. Secondary preventative strategies may be focused on the delays in helpseeking.

keywords Belgian general population, depression, epidemiology, impact