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Fact-checking TV host’s claims about depression in Nigeria

According to talk show host Funmi Iyanda, Nigerians were once said to be the happiest people on earth.

But that was no longer the case, due to issues such as suicide, anxiety disorder and drug abuse, Iyanda said on a February 2021 episode of her show, Public Eye.

The host made other claims on the episode, which focused on the state of mental health in Nigeria. 

We looked into two.

Claim: Over 7 million Nigerians are reportedly suffering from depression.

Verdict: Correct

We reached out to Iyanda to ask for the source of her data and will update this report should we hear back. 

Depression is a common mental disorder. According to the World Health Organization or WHO, it is a diagnosable health condition and “is distinct from feelings of sadness, stress or fear that anyone can experience from time to time in their lives”.

In 2017 the WHO estimated that more than 7 million Nigerians were suffering from depression. 

This estimate was based on the 2015 global burden of disease study led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in the US

Dr Mark van Ommeren, public mental health adviser at the WHO’s department of mental health and substance abuse, told Africa Check this remained the most recent estimate from the global health agency. 

Claim: After the outbreak of Covid, [the percentage of Nigerians who were depressed] grew from 24% to 40%.

Verdict: Unproven

The WHO estimated that 3.9% of Nigerians – and not 24% – were suffering from depressive disorders in 2017.

I have no updated information, but we would expect an increase because of Covid-19,” Van Ommeren said.

The share of Nigerians who would develop mental health challenges, including depression, was expected to increase due to the pandemic, Dr Joyce Omoaregba, secretary-general of the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, told Africa Check. 

But the organisation did not have any data on this yet, he said.

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