Depression Around the World

Turns out that being healthy, wealthy and well-educated in a highly developed country doesn’t make you any happier than anyone else, or so says a recent study. The study, organized by the State University of New York: Stony Brook, polled nearly 90,000 people in 18 countries in an effort to map out occurrences of major depression. Standardized tests were used in the research which was conducted in tandem with the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative.

Wealth Linked to Depression

The examiners compared test results focusing on socioeconomic determinants. Their study indicates that people who live in a rich nation are far more likely to experience depression than those who live in low- to middle-income countries (28% as compared to 20%). In fact, the highest income nations were discovered to also bear the dubious distinction of having the highest rates of major depression. Countries such as the United States, France, the Netherlands and India revealed depression rates above 30% while the less affluent countries of China and Mexico had the lowest depression rates – 6.5% and 8% respectively. The two most depressed countries involved in the study were France (21%) and the United States (19%). A couple of socioeconomic indicators connected to depression were pinpointed:

  • Those living in poverty in a rich nation are two times more at risk for depression
  • For those who live in low-income countries and do experience depression, it is likely to manifest two years sooner than for those who become depressed in wealthier nations.

Women at Greater Risk of Depression

Research confirmed that gender also plays a significant role in a person’s risk of depression. No matter where she lives, a woman is two times more likely to experience depression than is a man. And a woman who lives in a wealthy country where the risk of depression is higher is that much more at risk. Statistically speaking, an American female is nearly six times as likely to be depressed as a man in a poorer country like China. According to the study, women experience major depression largely due to relational issues. The single greatest risk of depression for a woman is the loss of a partner regardless of whether it occurs through death, divorce or separation. Understanding why these groups are at greater risk of depression could be easier than understanding why wealthy countries are more depressed than low-middle income countries. Some say that the pressures associated with affluence could produce higher rates of major depression. However, there is a well-established link between social connection and depression. It is possible that in wealthier countries where people have moved away from the nuclear family toward more individualized lifestyles, they may have unwittingly surrendered those relationships that hedge against depression. In choosing to pursue careers over investment in family and/or church relationships, citizens of wealthy countries around the world may have sacrificed more than they realized.

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