Is there a relationship between culture and depression?

The largest ever study of the possible genetics of depression is set to go underway in China. This is due to the recent findings of a major survey on depression, indicating that there are similar symptoms and triggers of the disorder as in the West, except with a few surprises:

A higher level of education is associated with a greater risk of depression in China, for example — the reverse of the relationship in Europe and the United States.

This chimes with the latest results from the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative, published last week, which found that those with the lowest level of education in China and Japan had only one-fifth the likelihood of developing depression as those with the highest education levels. In other countries, a lower education level was linked to a similar or higher risk of depression than the most educated.

And whereas having authoritarian parents seems to increase the risk of major depression in the West, CONVERGE found that having an overprotective father actually reduces the risk of depression in Chinese women.
– Source: nature.com

This is very interesting to me as this seems to stem from the different cultural viewpoints. For instance, in the West, the more educated you are, the higher chance you have of achieving monetary stability, a secure lifestyle and thus have less to feel depressed about. However in the East, it is commonplace to simply “do as your told, no questions asked”. Therefore by gaining higher education in China, they may start to become critical and question things they normally would have just attributed to being “just the way things are”.

Despite these differences, the symptoms and patterns of risk factors remain the same across cultures.

Stressful life events, childhood sexual abuse and authoritarian parents increase the risk with about the same dose-response relationship. Earlier onset of depression makes patients less likely to marry, more likely to suffer anxiety and more likely to be chronically depressed.

But why China? The main reasons given for undertaking the study there is due to the large, ethnically homogeneous sample. Additionally, costs of conducting the experiments there are far lower.

If you wish to learn more about such things, you may be interested in taking online psychology classes.

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1 Comment

  1. that's because in China people who are high educated and have money are so few that they feel alone

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