Abstract Despite being one of the most prevalent psychiatric conditions in the community, depression is commonly unrecognised in clinical practice. The Depression Research in European Society (DEPRES) survey examined depression in a pan-European population ( N=78 463) and identified a 6-month prevalence of depression of 17%. In DEPRES II ( N=1884), more than 50% of the individuals were categorised as being currently depressed, with one-third receiving antidepressant treatment. Cluster analysis grouped patients within six clearly differentiated types. Individuals with patient type ‘severe depression and anxiety’ (Group III), had the greatest number of symptoms and were more likely to be taking antidepressants than the other patient groups. In Group III, depression prevented individuals from undertaking normal activities for 6 weeks and prevented them from working for 1 month. The patient type making the most demands on healthcare resources are those with depression and anxiety. Prompt and effective treatment would be of benefit to all patient types, and the use of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) with activity against anxiety symptoms is an appropriate management strategy.