60 million Nigerians have been estimated to be at risk of suffering from depression according to a groundbreaking national report on depression.

The Nigeria National Depression report, produced by Joy, Inc., the benefit corporation building happier and flourishing Africans, in partnership with NOIPolls, the number one country specific public opinion polling and research organization in West Africa, has been released in commemoration of the World Mental Health Day 2018.

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability in the world; the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety disorders have increased by almost 50 per cent, from 416 million in 1990 to 615 million in 2013, with chances of an annual increase.

Mental and emotional health are the single biggest predictors of individual happiness. However, 3 in every 10 Nigerians reportedly experience depressive symptoms, according to the National Depression Report.

The report, which is the first nationwide study of happiness and depression, contains results from the nation-wide happiness and depression survey conducted across all the 36 states in Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), internal surveys from The Joy Congress, and up-to-date data on the state of the depression crisis in Nigeria. The survey equally focused on gauging public perception of Nigerians regarding their happiness and experiences with some factors that may affect their state of happiness and depression. The national poll also assessed the perception of Nigerians on how they feel about their lives five years ago, currently, and five years from now.

All interviews were conducted by telephone, in five major Nigerian languages: English, Pidgin English, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo. All the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory were surveyed, with at least 1,000 interviews. Survey state quotas were assigned and it was ensured that every state was proportionately represented in the sample.

“Joy, Inc. aims to provide coping tools and mechanisms and draw our attention as a citizenry to the state of our mental and emotional well-being. This report is a product of our surveys as we seek to better understand the needs of the population we serve,” one of the authors of the report and member of the Central Working Group, Glory Apantaku explained. “Our results serve as an important reminder of the urgency of this work, mental health issues are real and it is high time we paid attention,” she said.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Most Nigerians surveyed defined happiness as having the basic needs of life. The second largest group of respondents defined happiness as having peace of mind.
  • Several Nigerians believed that they are averagely satisfied (4.99) with their life as a whole these days, and are hopeful that they will be better satisfied in life five years from now. Most Nigerians also felt they were better five years ago (standing at 6.41) than they are currently.
  • 6% of polled respondent reported experiencing depressive symptoms. Putting this in perspective, 3 out of every 10 Nigerians are at risk of depression.
  • 8% of respondents reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety
  • While both physical and mental health are important for a flourishing life, mental illness explains more of the misery in the society more than physical illness, poverty or unemployment.
  • Nigeria need to be proactive in taking mental and emotional health seriously by reviewing the national mental health policy and creating a viable legislative framework to meet global standards, investing in public education to influence the culture to one that promotes resilience and creates safe spaces for emotional and mental healing, and investing in research, innovation and development.

The report also recommended that new metrics for measuring human progress should move from the use of financial values like GDP and focus on happiness and flourishing of citizens.

“Human misery is real, the goal of every intervention should be to reduce misery while increasing the happiness of people. Investing in citizens’ happiness and well-being should not be a luxury, but a necessity. Only when people are sustainably happy can they truly flourish, innovate, and make the world a better place,” said Damola Morenikeji, a research associate at Joy, Inc. and one of the authors of the report. “The collective roles of governments, businesses, and other stakeholders have to transcend from creating an environment purely for wealth creation to creating environments that facilitate the genuine well-being and flourishing of people,” he added.

The National Depression report can be downloaded at report.joyinc.xyz.