Why Is Depression Becoming More Common?

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If you look at the depression epidemic, this cries out for explanation, that's the thing I'm extremely curious about, where did this come from. It's happening in all western developed countries but the US is way ahead in that. It's certainly reasonable that some portion of this has been manufactured by Medical Pharmaceutical Complex which has convinced people that ordinary states of sadness are brain chemical imbalances that has to be treated.

I can't say what that percentage is, but let's say it's substantial and we get rid of that, we're still left with, I think, a significant rise in unexplained depression, and I think, some have to do with an informed cultural expectations which are most glaringly obvious around the holiday time when we are told from every channel that we are supposed to be happy, this is the happiest time of the year when, obviously, it isn't, and that almost never due expectations meet realities there. So I think the culture tells us that we're supposed to be happy and many of us don't feel it, so that's one problem.

But I think deeper than that, I think today there is real mismatch between our genes and what we have evolved to be and the circumstances in which we live. Dietary change is one part of that, increasing sedentariness is one part of that, I think another huge one, is increasing social isolation. There's, I think, a lot of scientific evidence that social connection protects us from depression, from anxiety, and interestingly, in the hunter gatherer societies that remain in the planet,

depression is unknown. And it's interesting to think about what's different, obviously, many things were different there, but one big difference is the extent of social connection, and I think, a lot of the ways that we have, that modern life has changed us, and in many ways these are unintended effect of affluence, it's that affluence enables us to live in a more isolated fashion.

An example that I used in my book is that I remember, I grew up in a road house in Philadelphia before air conditioning, and in hot summer nights, the entire block was sitting out in front of the house, and this was a big community. When air conditioners came in, it was possible to stay inside in your house, and many other modern conveniences and technological advancements, I think, have further accelerated our ability to live in an isolated fashion.

And now, I think, this is tremendously accelerated by the internet, by the media, and I think, this is a real danger there that it is increasingly possible to live in your own little cocoon and have virtual connections rather than real connections, and I think, that's taken away one of the major emotional support that people had in the past.