“It is good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy.” ~ George Lorimer
In these tough economic times, it’s easy to fantasize about having more money and thinking all your problems would be solved. But the reality is that healthy finances do not translate into happiness. Case in point: a recent study by scientists at facilities around the world found that the countries with the highest income levels also report some of the highest levels of depression.1
As part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Mental Health Survey, the researchers evaluated nearly 90,000 people in 18 countries all over the world to determine their mental health status. Among the participants living in the 10 higher income nations, an average of close to 15 percent of the population had experienced a major depressive episode at some point. In those participants from low to middle income countries, however, an average of approximately 11 percent had suffered through depression.
The country with the highest overall rate of depression was France, with a 21 percent frequency. The United States was second, experiencing a lifetime rate of 19.2 percent. The high-income nations with the lowest rates of depression were Japan, Germany, Italy (I guess the Marshall Plan really worked), and Israel, where the levels fell between 7 and 10 percent.
In general, the lower and middle-income countries that were included in this study fared better. (Brazil was the only nation in this group that came close to the highest numbers from the wealthier countries, with an 18.4 percent rate of depression.) Most of these nations were at the lower end of the spectrum, such as China with 6.5 percent and Mexico with an 8 percent rate.
The age of onset of depression varied by country as well. China had the lowest age of all of the countries tested, with a median of 18.8. United States residents seem to be stricken with depression at a younger age too, with a median of 22.7. The countries with the latest average onset were Japan at 30.1 and Spain at 30.
According to data from WHO, approximately 121 million people around the world suffer from depression. Women everywhere are twice as likely to experience episodes of depression as men. But the researchers found in general that those with depression in wealthier nations suffered from more debilitating disability resulting from the disease.
And depression really can impair you, both mentally and physically. Your body is a product of your thoughts. The cells of your body have receptor sites for the various neurohormones you produce. Your immune cells, to use just one example, have receptor sites for each of those hormones. When you are happy, you produce a set of neurohormones that are picked up by the cells of your immune system. These particular neurohormones tell your immune system to jack up — which it does. In other words, happy thoughts improve your health. However, when you are depressed, the opposite happens. The neurohormones your body produces literally shut down your immune system. In effect, negative thoughts can actually kill you.
A group of medical researchers in Montreal tracked 222 post heart attack victims, both men and women. The researchers found that those who were depressed were more likely to die of another heart attack within 18 months of their first heart attack than those who were not — 10 times more likely, in fact.2
Depression does not just affect our ability to enjoy each day. Among other things, scientists today are finding strong statistical evidence linking stress and depression with longevity. And, with “suicidal-behavior” being a side effect of anti-depressants, it is no wonder people are scrambling to find a natural solution. The good news is that not only can nutrition impact mood, but exercise and certain herbs and nutraceuticals such as Ginkgo, Valerian root, SAMe, and Mulungu can also give a safe, healthy mental lift! For more on depression, click here.
1 Bromet, Evelyn; Andrade, Laura Helena; Hwang, Irving; et al. “Cross-National Epidemiology of DSM-IV Major Depressive Episode.” BMC Medicine. 26 July 2011. BioMed Central Ltd. 26 September 2011. <http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/9/90>.
2 Frasure-Smith, N., F. Lespérance, M. Talajic. “Depression and 18-Month Prognosis After Myocardial Infarction.” Circulation 91 (1995): 999–1005. <http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/91/4/999.full>