difference between a depression and a recession

The Difference Between a Depression and a Recession


Economic downturns are inevitable, and it’s not uncommon to hear terms such as recession and depression thrown around during such times. However, these are not interchangeable terms, and it’s important to understand the difference between them. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the differences between a depression and a recession.

What is a Recession?

A recession is an economic decline that lasts for at least six months. It’s characterized by a widespread drop in economic activity, including things like a decrease in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), rising unemployment, and declining consumer confidence. In a recession, businesses tend to cut back on spending, and many people may lose their jobs. The stock market also tends to be affected during a recession, with a drop in values.

What is a Depression?

A depression, on the other hand, is much more severe and longer-lasting than a recession. In a depression, the GDP falls by more than 10%, and the decline typically lasts for several years. Unemployment rates can reach up to 25%, and businesses may close down permanently. Consumer confidence is often low during a depression, which leads to decreased spending and further exacerbates the economic decline.

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Why is Knowing the Difference Important?

Knowing the difference between a recession and a depression is important because it allows individuals and businesses to make informed decisions during economic downturns. In a recession, businesses may cut back on spending or lay off employees, but may still have a chance to recover. In a depression, however, businesses may not survive, which means that individuals may need to find new career paths. Understanding the severity of the economic downturn can help individuals and businesses make crucial decisions that could ultimately affect their survival.


In conclusion, while recessions and depressions may seem like similar economic downturns, they are vastly different in terms of their severity and duration. Recessions tend to be shorter and less severe than depressions, but both can have long-lasting effects on businesses and individuals. Understanding the differences between the two can help individuals and businesses make informed decisions that can ultimately impact their survival during tough economic times.

Table difference between a depression and a recession

Depression Recession
Definition An extended period of economic downturn characterized by high unemployment, deflation, and a substantial decline in economic output. A period of temporary economic decline characterized by a decrease in economic activity, income, and employment.
Duration Typically lasts for several years or even a decade. Occurs for a period of six months or more but is usually shorter and less severe than a depression.
Severity Characterized by a significant decline in GDP, high levels of unemployment, and a deflationary spiral. Characterized by a decrease in spending, consumer confidence, and investment.
Cause The result of a prolonged economic downturn that leads to a collapse of the financial system and investor confidence. Caused by a range of factors such as a decline in consumer spending, increased interest rates, or a decrease in business investments.
Recovery May take years for the economy to recover from a depression, and policies such as government intervention, increased public spending, and regulation are often implemented. Typically recovers within a year or two without the need for massive government intervention.