Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a mental health condition characterised by low mood and apathy.

It is one of the most common mental health conditions, with more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression worldwide.

Depression is more than just sadness. Everyone feels sad once in a while, but depression is a low mood that cannot just be shaken off, continues for at least two weeks and is severe enough to interrupt daily activities. An untreated depressive episode typically lasts about six months. Depression tends to be two times more common among women, however, both men and women can suffer from depression.


8 - 12% of the population or about 3 million Malaysians are estimated to suffer from major depressive disorder.


Depression is one of the leading causes of burden of disease in Malaysia and in the world.

The burden of disease is calculated as the sum of the years of life lost (YLL) due to premature mortality in the population and the equivalent ‘ healthy’ years lost due to disability (YLD) for people living with the health condition or its consequences.

In Malaysia, depression costs four years of full health and is the number 5 cause of burden of disease in Malaysia. It is more costly on health than deafness, lower respiratory tract infections and arthritis.

What is Depression?

A major depressive episode may include these symptoms:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain for which no other cause can be diagnosed

To receive a diagnosis of depression:

  • Depressive symptoms must last at least two weeks
  • Depressive symptoms have caused significant distress or interfere with social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.


Major depressive disorder may appear at any age, but the likelihood of being depressed increases after puberty.

Most people will recover from depression within the year with treatment. The sooner people seek help for the depression, the more likely they are to recover.

  • Ng, C. G. (2014). A review of depression research in malaysia. The Medical journal of Malaysia, 69, 42-45.