Since moving to a Cornish village in the middle of nowhere, newspapers have become my new source of weekend entertainment. I’ve soon realised, however, just why I stopped reading them so frequently in the first place. I know that this sounds like the classic excuse for ignorance, but I really don’t like what I read. It only takes one Sunday Times for me to spend my Sunday evening rocking back and forth in a whirl of anxiety, worrying about terrorism, politics, the economy and the environment. In this instance I fail to see how knowledge is power.
The fact that our prospects as a nation seem to be unremittingly plummeting coincides with one issue that is constantly being reiterated recently. Depression and other mental illnesses are on the rise, and are predicted to continue to do so. The current statistic is that one in four people develop some kind of mental illness at some point in their lives. In as little as eight years’ time, however, the burden of mental illness on the world will only be second to that of HIV/Aids.
There are many campaigns tackling the stigma attached to mental illness – and in 2003 this was one of the World Health Organisation’s key targets towards improving statistics. This doesn’t, however, get to the root causes of the increase in depression. We need to be looking at why this statistic is rising. One main factor is said to be the economy – but there are only a certain proportion of people that have the predisposition for something like this to trigger depression – so surely this proportion must be on the increase?
Depression is a complex illness, and there is no one definite cause. But with the uncertainty of the future, global warming, the rapid pace of technological change and the rise of internet communication over social interaction – is it existential? After all, as things continue to change beyond expectation, we’re also being told that we’re living longer than previous generations.
With the increase in depression comes one big fat burden – as it’s a risk factor for alcohol and substance abuse, cancer and heart disease. It also affects work productivity. It’s clear to see that this will become a cyclic problem.
Aside from the recession, there is evidence to suggest that those who regularly work 11 hours or more each day are more than twice as likely to suffer depression as those who work 8. It seems that there are more and more causes and risk factors emerging in the media. Is the increase in information perhaps leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy in some cases?
Whether or not the recession is the sole reason for the increase in depression – something does need to be done beside tackling the stigmas attached to mental illness. Of course, lack of awareness and misunderstanding exacerbates existing problems, but before this becomes even more of a problem, the cause of the apparent increase and further predicted increases in depression and anxiety needs to be figured out and tackled before it feeds back into the economy and the process starts again. Either that or I could just stop buying newspapers.