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One of the more startling findings is that the rate of depression in the western world has been on the increase over the past century. One study (summary here) found the rate of major depression in U.S. adults increased from 3.33% to 7.06% over a ten year period. The study interviewed a large sample, and used their own questions, rather than relying on the numbers diagnosed by doctors, so an increase in the rates of diagnosis wouldn’t explain the result. The study found increasing substance abuse could account for some, but not all of the change.

One researcher has explained the increase in depression in cultural terms. Stephen Ilardi, from the University of Kansas, argues that depression arises because people are more adapted to primitive times:

“As a species, humans were never designed for the pace of modern life, we’re designed for a different time — a time when people were physically active, when they were outside in the sun for most of the day, when they had extensive social connections and enjoyed continual face time with their friends and loved ones, when they experienced very little social isolation, when they had a much different diet, when they got considerably more sleep and when they had much less in the way of a relentless, demanding, stress-filled existence.” (Source: Kansas University News)

His six recommendations for depression are to get more physical activity, spend more time in the sun, keep up social connections, improve our diet (by eating more food with omega-3s, and less fast foods), getting more sleep, and engaging ourselves in tasks to avoid rumination. I’ve come across similar recommendations before, and they are good self-care behaviours.

The thing about culture is that we can often be sucked into thinking that the way we do things is the way things are meant to be done. So we should look at whether we’re buying into the modern high-stress culture, and consider whether we should make some changes to our lives. Maybe it’s time to go ‘primitive’, and live healthier lives?

Postpartum Depression is a form of depression that affects parents after the birth of their children. It is speculated that the stress of childbirth, lifestyle changes associated with having children, and for women, hormonal changes can precipitate a depressive episode in parents. Although men don’t undergo childbirth, it can still be a stressful time. I recently came across two stories on CNN, and The Daily Mail, telling stories about Male Postpartum depression.

It’s interesting to note that male postpartum depression can often occurwhen the partner also has postpartum depression. If your partner is depressed, not only does this mean having to spend more time caring for your new born, but also supporting your partner. The lesson here is that if you’re supporting someone through a difficult time, be aware that you’re vulnerable yourself, so make sure you’re getting the support you need, otherwise you might find yourself getting depressed.

Another lesson to take away from this is to be prepared. If you’ve got a history of depression, be aware of things which can put you under stress, such as child birth, and be aware of the signs you see when you get depressed. If you start to see signs that you aren’t coping, do something about it.

If you’re looking at doing something about depression (whether or not you’re a parent) have a look at some of the links on the side bar, or contact us. If you’re interested in reading more about Postpartum Depression, there’s a lengthy wikipedia article on it.

June 2009