After 32 years of psychiatric practice I, like many of my colleagues, can’t help but be alarmed by the dramatic increase in acute and chronic depression in the last three decades. If anything the incidence of clinical depression and tragically suicide have undergone a dramatic upsurge with the recent economic downturn (and associated unemployment, bankruptcies, foreclosures and homelessness).

The most recent epidemiological data, which predates the October 2008 crash, is as follows:

5.3% of adults are depressed on any given day

12% of women and 7% of men will experience depression in any given year

20% of women will experience depression in their lifetime (the prevalence of depression in men is more difficult to estimate as they are less likely to acknowledge feeling depressed or to seek help).

Given the frequent visits all doctors receive from drug salesman, I am well aware that the pharmaceutical industry has very successfully marketed clinical depression as a “genetic” deficiency of a brain neurotransmitter called serotonin. Which they used to justify a line of enormously profitable drugs called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs Prozac is the best known). While antidepressants can be literally life saving for some people, approximately 50% of patients who take them never achieve full recovery. And in the eyes of the medical community, a 50% response rate is a definite embarrassment. This poor response rate is one of the main factors suggesting something other that a genetically inherited “biochemical imbalance” is causing Americans to become depressed.

Marketing Serotonin Deficiency: the Multibillion Dollar Depression Industry, 7/14/10

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