Malaysian psychologists revealed, socioeconomic reasons are the main contributing factor to depression and anxiety disorders, The Star Online reported.

Speaking to The Star Online, Malaysian Mental Health Association president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj, said: "In 2017 alone, 18,000 new cases of depression was diagnosed by the public health sector in Malaysia."

He highlighted that while a significant portion suffer from endogenous depression (meaning there is a genetic basis for their illness), socioeconomic factors could perpetuate depression in this group.

At the same time, socioeconomic problems might lead people to develop reactive depression, which is depression in response to external circumstances.

Citing the World Health Organization, Dr Andrew stressed, clinical depression was likely to be the number one cause of disability in the workplace by 2020 to 2030.

He added that more research needs to be done to highlight the the economic impact of depression in the workplace.

Consultant psychiatrist and former Malaysian Psy­­chiatric Association (MPA) president Dr Abdul Kadir Abu Bakar, agreed, adding: “Unemployment, poverty, wor­king as a single mother – these are social determinants that could lead to depression.”

He also noted that severe depression affected about 2% of the Malaysian population.

Policies to alleviate poverty and improve social cohesion should be encouraged to address this, he said, in a conversation with The Star Online.

Consultant psychiatrist Prof Dr Ramli Musa from the Interna­tional Islamic University Malaysia also told The Star Online, socioeconomic difficulties and lack of communal support could trigger depression.

“There are people working two jobs at the same time. Parents are spending so much time trying to earn a living that they are stressed out – and their children are neglected,” he said.

Agreeing, MPA patron, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, said: “Most people find it hard to deal with the problems they face at work and cannot handle the stress. And it is harder when an individual faces problems from family members and do not receive emotional support.”

“There are higher chances of people keeping their thoughts and emotions to themselves when they do not find a way to vent out their frustrations,” he added in a statement to The Star Online.

According to the Psychiatry Department of Universiti Malaya Medical Centre, Lee said, depression and anxiety could be treated if detected early.

To allow for early detection of mental health issues, Dr Ramli added that effective mental health screenings and assessments should be developed and made accessible to the public.