London: Indians are the world's most depressed people with nearly 36 per cent suffering from Major Depressive Episode (MDE), the cluster of symptoms of depression, according to a WHO-sponsored study.

The study found that people living in wealthier nations like Netherlands, France and the US were less happy and more depressed than those in poorer ones.

Netherlands with an average 33.6 per cent cases of MDE came second while France and US were placed on third and fourth positions with 32.3 per cent and 30.9 per cent cases respectively.

In India, around 9 per cent of people reported having an extended period of depression within their lifetime and nearly 36 per cent suffered from MDE.

The average age of depression in India is 31.9 years compared to 18.8 years in China, and 22.7 years in the US.

The study, published in the BMC Medicine journal, is based on interviews of more than 89,000 people in 18 different countries.

One in seven people (15 per cent) in high-income countries is likely to get depression over their lifetime, compared with one in nine (11 per cent) in middle- and low-income countries, the study says.

MDE is characterised by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy and poor concentration, besides feeling depressed.

WHO ranks depression as the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide and projects that by 2020, it will be the second leading cause.

Women are twice as likely to suffer depression as men and the loss of a partner, whether from death or divorce, was a main factor, the study reveals.

Depression affects over 120 million people worldwide. It can interfere with a person's ability to work, make relationships difficult, and destroy quality of life. In severe cases it leads to suicide, causing 850,000 deaths a year.

(Agencies)