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World Health Org study says U.S. is most depressed country. Nigeria is happiest.

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World Health Org study says U.S. is most depressed country. Nigeria is happiest.

Old 03-10-07, 09:28 PM
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World Health Org study says U.S. is most depressed country. Nigeria is happiest.

I always wondered why so many people who were born in the U.S. were fleeing to Nigeria. Thanks to this study, I now have my answer.


http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110009764

The Great Depression

Richest country, saddest people--any coincidence?


BY BRET STEPHENS

Friday, March 9, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

"Oh, my God, I am so starving," says high-school student Brittany Birnbaum, who ate nothing except "a Twix and a half bag of Fritos" before her cheerleading tryout and whose stomach revolts at the sight of her mother's salisbury steak. "You know," she warns, "it's against the law to treat your kids like this."

"My God, I am starving," rejoins Kitum Asosa, starving African. "I would walk 100 miles through the desert to reach a handful of millet. The sight of a sparrow carcass would make my mouth water, if only I were not too dehydrated to salivate."

I am reminded of this immortal exchange--a satirical Point/Counterpoint in the online pages of the Onion--after reading about the results of a study, recently reported in Forbes, purporting to show that the U.S. has the highest rate of depression among a survey group of 14 countries. The study, jointly conducted by the World Health Organization and Harvard Medical School and based on more than 60,000 face-to-face interviews world-wide, found that 9.6% of Americans suffer from "bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder or chronic minor depression." A whopping 18.2% of Americans were also found to be experiencing "mood and anxiety disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder and panic disorder."

These figures come as no surprise: We are, after all, entering our 21st year as a Prozac nation. Consider the contrast with other countries. One can easily understand that Ukraine, land of Chernobyl, would have a comparatively high proportion of depressed people: 9.1%. One can equally understand that the rate of depression in Italy comes in at a low 3.8%. The only mystery there is how anyone could be depressed in Italy.

More interesting are the data about depression rates in poorer countries. In Lebanon, which in the last year has endured heavy Israeli bombardment, an internal refugee crisis, several political assassinations and a quasi-coup by Hezbollah, 6.6% of the population is considered to be depressed, a slightly higher figure than Belgium's (6.2%) but considerably lower than France's (8.5%). Colombians, with their drug cartels and right- and left-wing death squads, remain, at 6.8%, a slightly cheerier people than the prosperous, permissive Dutch (6.9%). And while some 50 million Mexicans live below the poverty line, they are, at 4.8%, doing twice as well at keeping their spirits up than their richer neighbors to the north.

And then there is Nigeria: desperately poor, infamously corrupt, riven by violent confessional and tribal divides, and generally filthy. It clocked in with a depression rate of 0.8%, by far the lowest of all the countries surveyed.

Could it really be that Nigerians are the happiest people on earth, and Americans the most unhappy? At least the first of those suggestions seems absurd, and researchers have no shortage of explanations to account for the comparatively lower rates of depression reported in poorer countries. "It's all about what people are willing to tell us," Harvard's Ronald Kessler, who helped run the study, tells Forbes. "In Nepal, it's against the law to be mentally ill. No surprise, nobody there admits to being mentally ill." Other researchers suggest that doctors in poorer countries may be quicker to diagnose depression not as a physical malady but as a moral or spiritual one, best treated with some bracing advice to the patient about how he should lead his life.

There is also the matter of differing expectations: A New York attorney who fails to make partner at a white-shoe firm by his mid-30s may find himself "depressed." By contrast, a fruit seller in Lagos, Nigeria, who makes enough in a year to feed and clothe her family may be fairly contented. If your goal in life is shelter, food and safety, the very notion of depression may never even intrude on your psychic space. But if you've never known what it means to struggle for survival, you might more easily be emotionally crushed by the want of life's intangibles: love, purpose, meaning and so on.

Still, none of this quite accounts for the wide disparities in depression rates among countries that are already rich. Germany and Japan, for instance, have rates of 3.6% and 3.1%, respectively. About the Germans, a wag might explain their rate as a late instance of the triumph of the will, and perhaps a similar cultural ethic among the Japanese militates against admitting to depression. If so, it could mean that social values are, in effect, repressing depressed people by making them reluctant to admit to their problem. Alternatively, it could mean that those values also serve as a cure, at least in depression's milder forms, by providing a variety of social goods that may be lacking in the U.S.: a sense of community, stronger family ties, an extra four weeks of vacation.

I suspect, however, that cultural differences can account for only so much. Economics must also be at work. Consider Jean-Baptiste Say's famous insight that supply creates its own demand. We know this to be true about, for instance, personal computers: There was never any demand for PCs until Steve Jobs put one on the market and persuaded consumers it was something they should have. Just so with depression: Is there a country on earth where Prozac is more widely prescribed, or therapy more readily available, than the U.S.? It should hardly be surprising, therefore, that Americans now find themselves so depressed.

None of this is to say that depression is not, for those who suffer acutely from it, a serious matter or that it doesn't warrant attention and care. But it is also true that what we now call "depression" is something previous generations also knew, albeit with different names: melancholy, unhappiness, "the blues." In song, in church, in labor, in philosophy and in the bonds of family, community and tradition they were often able to find genuine consolations.

Such consolations still exist, though we no longer think of them as cures. Given how badly our own "cures" seem to be working, perhaps it would be well if we did.

Mr. Stephens writes "Global View," the Journal's weekly foreign-affairs column.

Last edited by grundle; 03-10-07 at 09:35 PM.
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Old 03-10-07, 09:33 PM
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It's because their young female stars are more stable. When we see our poor little girls like Britney Spears in such distress, how can we help but feel their pain?
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Old 03-10-07, 10:45 PM
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Nigerian Idol is the most-watched television program in the world, along with Nigerian Deal or No Nigerian Deal.

Jesus guys, get a life. Nigeria rules.
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Old 03-10-07, 11:29 PM
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Thus -- everything is relative and a function of our perceptions. Deep.
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Old 03-10-07, 11:31 PM
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Someone should tell those Nigerian spammers that they're only going to end up depressed if they actually scam me out of my money.
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Old 03-10-07, 11:43 PM
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sounds about right. just because someone is rich doesnt mean they are happy, most people dont get that
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Old 03-11-07, 12:14 AM
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How about this article from digg:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/8778/Why-I...-To-Be-Unhappy
Article has this quote:
Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.
- Ernest Hemingway, author and journalist, Nobel laureate (1899-1961)
Hmm.
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Old 03-11-07, 01:06 PM
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People who live in the present are much less likely to get depressed than people who live in the past and future.
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Old 03-11-07, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
People who live in the present are much less likely to get depressed than people who live in the past and future.
Actually, depression has increased so people who live in the present are more likely to get depressed than people who live in the past. And people who live in the future have flying cars so they are probably fairly giddy.
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Old 03-11-07, 04:14 PM
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Certain cultures live in the past, only dwell on the negative aspects of their history, and they are mostly depressed.
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Old 03-11-07, 05:33 PM
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I was happy, until I read this thread.
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Old 03-11-07, 05:33 PM
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Nevermind, I'm happy again.
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Old 03-11-07, 05:54 PM
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what kind of study only factors in 14 countries. News flash WHO! This isnt the year 950.

Anyways, I'm not moving to Nigeria anytime soon.

This whole study comes down to perspective
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Old 03-11-07, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
Certain cultures live in the past, only dwell on the negative aspects of their history, and they are mostly depressed.
That's part of what I was getting at. If you go to a poor African nation, one of the first things that strikes you is how happy and carefree most people are despite the fact that they are poor and destitute. That's because they live in the present. We (people from industrialized nations) however, have lost that "just enjoy the moment" mentality. We constantly reflect on past experiences and achievements/failures (living in the past) and we have ambitions, we plan ahead and we set goals (living in the future). "I haven't done that great last year, I'll do better next year!". We forget to live the present. And, we are obsessed by "wants" and "needs" which of course, creates expectations which, when not met, well... affects our mental health.

And because the US is by far the most individualistic nation on the planet, "wants" and "needs" are even greater. The engine of the US economy isn't consumer spending for nothing. I'm not surprised at all that the US would rank 1st in terms of "depression".

As an aside, I rember seeing a documentary on some tribe that lived on some island (can't remember where exactly). In their language, there were no words for "want/need", and there was no word for "time" either. There was a funny bit (to us "civilized" folks) when members of the same tribe from another island came by boat to visit. Apparently, they hadn't visited for quite a long time and yet, there was absolutely no rushing to the beach to greet them, no "hey how have you been! long time no see! what's up!" either. Everybody just carried on about their business as if there was nobody disembarking on the beach. The visitors simply went to where the locals were, sat down and then talking started. I bet those people are the least stressed/depressed people on the planet.

Last edited by eXcentris; 03-11-07 at 06:52 PM.
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Old 03-11-07, 06:58 PM
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Once I get a 42-46" HDTV, I'll be happy again.

I totally agree, eXcentris. Would be nice if our society was just laid back more. In the age of "The Millisecond Media" (coined by yours truly, btw), we have too much information available, most of which is irrelevant to our lives and only increases our stress levels.
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Old 03-12-07, 03:51 PM
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Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.
- Ernest Hemingway, author and journalist, Nobel laureate (1899-1961)
Then you have to wonder if you've made a mistake who you're calling intelligent.
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Old 03-12-07, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Venusian
sounds about right. just because someone is rich doesnt mean they are happy, most people dont get that
Uhhhh, because it's a load of crap. Money brings happieness, and we all know it.
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Old 03-12-07, 08:05 PM
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I am not sure how to explain why Americans are depressed. It is not because they are more intelligent or educated than people in other countries, but I think it is because they can see all around them how life can be.

Look at a show like MTV Cribs, showing all the kiddies how great life can be when you earn millions. For most kids watching, they are never going to make it big like that and it causes them to be depressed over time. Always seeing how other people have made it and how great their lives are. Expensive cars, homes, women, etc $75 dinners

Meanwhile, the avergage Nigerian is happy if no one he knew died today and he himself didn't starve to death either

As each level of needs is met, the next level keeps getting more rediculous. If you always strive for the next level as us Americans are always taught to do, there is never happiness because there is always another level.
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Old 03-12-07, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Uhhhh, because it's a load of crap. Owning HORSES brings happieness, and we all know it.

fixed
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Old 03-12-07, 08:13 PM
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Happiness? Bah. Were the 2004 Red Sox happy when they went into game 4 of the ALCS, down 3 games to none to the Yankees?

I don't know. You've got to find the yin and the yang. If you're too happy and content, then you won't strive for anything grand or accomplish anything, and if you're too miserable, then you won't be able to act, and you'll never achieve any satisfaction.

Old Chinese proverb: "Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation."
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Old 03-12-07, 08:53 PM
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Maybe the reason why people are "happier" in Nigeria is because anyone who is shot dead by an AK-47 in tribal warfare, dead from AIDS, and dead from starvation, famine, disease due to not having a source of running water can't quite give their opinion.
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Old 03-12-07, 08:57 PM
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Americans are depressed because they know too much.
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Old 03-13-07, 02:12 AM
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What was the point of posting this article Grundle. It was obviously incredibly stupid.

You might as well post studies showing that people are more likely to get run over by a car in the US than in Nigeria. We're obviously a nation of drunks and bad drivers.
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Old 03-13-07, 02:31 AM
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I think it was posted to point out how pointless at lconducting happiness surveys the WHO is.
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Old 03-13-07, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
Americans are depressed because they know too much.

Ahhhh, so it is ignorance that is bliss.
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