Depression symptoms may come from modern living

Aug 13 2009 - 9:51pm
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According to one researcher, experiencing depression symptoms might simply be the result of modern living. Stephen Ilardi, associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Kansas believes living in an industrialized society may be a root cause of why we experience symptoms of depression, especially given the increased incidence of depressive disorders, despite pharmaceutical therapies.

"A century ago, according to the best epidemiological evidence we have, the lifetime rate of depressive illness in the U.S. was about 1 percent," said Ilardi. "The rate now stands at 23 percent. So we've had roughly a 20-fold increase over the course of a century. Since World War II there's been roughly a 10-fold increase. And a recent study found the rate of depression has more than doubled in just the past decade." Experiencing symptoms of depression takes a toll on overall health and has been associated with a variety of chronic illnesses, including heart disease.

Ilardi contends that reclaiming a more primitive type of lifestyle could be the answer to treating depression. His book The Depression Cure (Da Capo Lifelong Books), published June 1, is based on research from the Therapeutic Lifestyle Change project, lead by Kansas University Researchers.

"As a species, humans were never designed for the pace of modern life," said Ilardi. "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." The result of living more simply was fewer symptoms of depression.

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To prove that assuming a less modern role might cure symptoms of depression, study participants were asked to adopt six habits from the past that are basic to good health - consuming more omega-3 fatty acids; remaining actively engaged to combat eating; getting regular sunlight exposure; increasing physical exercise; connecting more with others socially; and getting increased , quality sleep.

Ilardi’s own studies, in addition to the ongoing Therapeutic Lifestyle Change project, show that modern day existence fosters unhappiness, leading to symptoms of depression. He says individuals whose lifestyles are more closely related to our ancestors experience less depression.

Ilardi cites the Amish culture whose rates of depression are low, as well as observations from anthropologist Edward Schieffelin who observed that the Kaluli people of the New Guinea highlands do not experience depression. They spend their days foraging and gardening, just as our ancestors did.

Modern life may indeed contribute to symptoms of depression, which has been increasing steadily since World War II. Less time spent in the sun, lack of sleep, fast food diets, social isolation, and physical inactivity are the direct result of the way we live. Of depression, Ilardi says, “Virtually everyone knows someone with this affliction.”

Ilardi is convinced that modern living is at the root of why people experience symptoms of depression, which include lack of sleep, difficulty enjoying activities, fatigue, irritability, increased pain, feelings of hopelessness, crying, lack of sexual desire, and even thoughts of suicide. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44.” If you suffer from symptoms of depression, speak with your health care provider. You may also want to consider a more simple existence.

Reference: KU Research On Easing Symptoms of Depression
http://www.news.ku.edu/2009/june/4/depression.shtml

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