Having More Doesn't Mean Greater Happiness

Depression impacts affluent western nations

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) "Money doesn't buy happiness" is a common adage, and it may be more true than you think. People who live in wealthier countries seem to be more depression-prone than those in poorer countries.

Western citizens also report more depression than those in the East. The rates of depression were about twice as high in women than men, and older age was associated with greater depression. People who were divorced or widowed reported higher depressive episodes than those who were married.

"The wealthier the country, the more depression is reported."

Evelyn Bromet, PhD Professor at Stony Brook University, led a team of researchers in an international study on depression for the World Health Organization. What her team found might be surprising. They interviewed more than 89,000 people face-to-face, throughout 18 different countries in the extensive study. Researchers asked if the participants had experienced sadness or depression lasting several days or more, at any point in their lifetimes.

As it turned out, there was a broad range of depressive episodes reported between the various countries, with more affluent nations reporting the highest rates of depression. 14.6 percent of people in wealthier countries had experienced episodes of depression, compared to 11.1 percent of those in poorer countries. The researchers also found a difference between Western and Eastern nations, from depression rates as low as 6.5 percent in China and 6.6 percent in Japan, to highs of 21 percent in France and 19.2 percent in the United States.

While the gap was large between poor & affluent countries for lifetime depression, when asked about depressive episodes within the last 12 months, there was virtually no difference. The researchers speculated that it's possible people in low-income countries may have more difficulty recalling or reporting depression from long ago, and this could be a factor in the disparity of lifetime depression between them and people living in wealthy countries.

"To me, the similarities among countries is far more impressive than the rather minor differences in the average lifetime rates," Bromet says.

The study was published in a July 2011 issue of BMC Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 25, 2011
Last Updated:
August 28, 2011