Untreated depression does more than just make it harder to get through the day. It can also increase your chance of premature death.

Depression is a serious mental health condition. It’s not just about feeling down or sad. Depression can affect all aspects of your daily life and well-being.

Symptoms can last a few weeks or go on for years in some cases.

If left untreated, depression can lead to serious problems. But with the right support, you can diminish the effects of this condition on your physical and mental health.

You might wonder if your depression will go away on its own. This may seem possible depending on the type of depression you have.

For example, if you have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it can change in severity with the seasons. If you experience a decrease in symptoms as the daylight hours change, you might not think you need treatment.

However, there are types of depression that can cause significant consequences if you don’t seek help.

If you have persistent depressive disorder (PDD), aka dysthymia, symptoms can last 2 years or longer. Major depressive disorder (MDD) symptoms might not drag on as long but they can be more severe.

Without treatment, depression of any type can impact your life in many ways.

Increased risk of suicide

An estimated 1.4% of deaths worldwide are from suicide. It’s suggested that as many as 90% of people who have died by suicide had a mental health condition at the time of their death.

The chance of suicide for people living with severe mental health conditions such as depression is between 5%-8%. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, treatment for any underlying mental health conditions can lower this risk.

If you’re in crisis, help is available right now

If you or someone you know is in crisis, seek help immediately. You can:

If you live outside of the United States, you can visit Befrienders Worldwide to find help in your area.

You can find more resources here.

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Physical problems

Depression is not just an issue with mood. It’s a biological illness that can affect your entire body. Symptoms can include physical changes such as:

  • sleep disruption
  • appetite changes
  • fluctuations in body weight
  • intense fatigue

People with depression have a higher chance of experiencing illness and diseases that reduce lifespan, such as:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • some types of cancer
  • diabetes

The American Heart Association (AHA) describes depression as a contributing factor for heart disease. This is because depression can cause reduced blood flow to the heart, and changes in the stress hormone cortisol.

Untreated depression affects platelet clotting, making it easier for blood clots to form which increases the chance of stroke. It can also increase inflammation, which contributes to diseases like cancer and diabetes.

Substance use

Substance use disorder (SUD) often occurs with other mental health diagnoses, and depression is one of them. It’s estimated that around 25% of people with a serious mental health condition also have SUD.

It’s suggested that people with untreated mental health conditions such as depression might turn to substance use as a form of self-medication.

Can depression kill you? Research supports the link between depression and a shortened life expectancy.

A 2017 study examining 293 studies linked depression to an up to 50% increase in mortality. The connection is stronger with current depression and weakens over time, which suggests that remission from depression decreases the chance of early death. Remission can be from treatment, or can be spontaneous.

Examining the time frames involved can offer insight into the factors that lead to death. Short time frames suggest causes of death such as suicide and accidental injuries. On the other hand, longer time frames point to chronic conditions that occur with depression.

Depression has a powerful impact because it connects to so many areas of your life. What starts as a low mood can become a cascade of long-term side effects, many of which can influence each other:

  • trouble with mental tasks
  • increased sick days at work
  • unemployment resulting in loss of income and financial stress
  • low self-esteem and low confidence
  • impaired interactions with friends, family, and coworkers
  • social isolation
  • less interest in healthy lifestyle habits like nutrition and exercise
  • reduced immune system function
  • loss of overall health
  • vulnerability to disease

The fact that depression is not simply confined to one aspect of your life is one of the reasons that it’s so important to get treatment.

While depression is a complex and serious condition, treatment can be a highly effective way to manage its symptoms.


According to a 2020 study, up to 62% of adults who participate in psychotherapy for depression treatment reach a point where they no longer meet the criteria for major depressive disorder. The success rate improves to 66% when the type of psychotherapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).


Antidepressant medication can result in an up to 50% reduction in depression symptoms in 54% of adults who try this treatment, according to that 2020 study.

Medication and psychotherapy are the first-line treatments that most mental health professionals recommend for treating depression. In some cases, hospitalization or brain stimulation therapy can help when therapy and medication have not.

There are self-help strategies you can use at home to help manage your depression symptoms.

One of the easiest ways to start feeling better is to simply get up and move. Whether you go for a walk in your neighborhood, do some light exercise at home, or even get active with yard work or chores, physical activity can improve the way you feel.

Try to incorporate an activity you enjoy doing into your day-to-day routine — something that has meaning or purpose such as a hobby or reading up on something you like. For example, if you enjoy sports or travel, you might enjoy reading a book about those activities.

Diet also plays a significant role in your mental and physical health. If you take a quick inventory of your pantry, what will you find? A more nutritious diet can provide your brain with the nutrients it needs to function optimally.

Stress reduction strategies such as meditation can help as a support, along with more traditional treatments, to relieve symptoms of depression. Meditation has been associated with such benefits as reduced inflammation, increased brain gray matter, and mood regulation via vagus nerve stimulation.

Depression is serious condition that might shorten your lifespan, but it’s also treatable. There is less stigma now as more people realize that mental health conditions require treatment, just like medical conditions do.

Psychotherapy and medication are among the effective treatment options that can reduce the severity of your symptoms. In fact, when you find the treatment that’s right for you, it can turn your life around.

If you think you may be living with depression, consider meeting with a healthcare professional, if you haven’t done so already. They can connect you with a mental health professional who can help you create a treatment plan, if needed.

If you’re not sure where to start, you can try our find a therapist tool to learn more about resources and support.