Depression cases are rising in Switzerland, mostly among women.

Swiss Federal Health office figures show that nearly 345,000 people consulted a doctor about depression in 2008 or 13 in every 1,000 people in the country.

Two-thirds of those going for a first consultation are women. Most cases have been found in urban areas than countryside. Interestingly, more cases were diagnosed in French-speaking parts of Switzerland, compared with German or Italian speaking areas.

There were 27 cases of depression for every 1000 consultation in the cantons of Geneva, Jura, Neuchâtel, Vaud and Valais. The national average is 13 per 1,000.

The Federation of Swiss Psychologists spokesperson Tezeana Frassineti explains why women are diagnosed more with depression. “It’s a matter of recognition. Women are more aware of it than men because women go to the doctors more often than men, and to gynecologists, who also detect it,” she said.

“We know that alcoholism in men is very often a sign of depression. They treat themselves this way. But that doesn’t mean that women are more prone to depression, apart from during biological changes [such as maternity and menopause],” Frassineti added.

She feels that stressful urban life could be a major reason for depression, but there could be many cases going unnoticed and untreated in rural areas as well.

“Biological depression, for example, is not less common in rural areas than it is in urban areas. It’s simply that – as with many psychiatric illnesses – we just don’t dare talk about depression in rural areas, and we don’t go to the doctor or something like this. In those parts you might say ‘well, my grandmother had it and so will I,” she said.

The Federal Health Office says that the rising figures could be because of “the fact that more and more people are accepting to seek professional help for psychiatric problems”.

It may be noted that Europe alone has more than 50 million people who suffer from depression at some point in their lives. A WHO projection says that more people will be affected by depression than any other health problem in the coming 20 years.