FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Depression Exacts a Heavy Toll on Chinese People’s Health

Everyone experiences periods of sadness and grief, which may last a few days and then go away. Depression, however, is a mental health disorder characterized by a persistent low mood that is accompanied by feelings of guilt, low self-esteem and a loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities. It is a serious, and common, mental health disorder that may lead to suicide in some and has significant economic and social costs.

China’s rapid economic growth, as well as growing social and economic pressures, has increased the awareness about depression, and the number of people it affects. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 350 million people from all ages suffer from depression. Although reliable statistics are difficult to obtain, it is estimated that in China more than 26 million people are affected by depression. The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimated in that in the U.S. 16 million adults had had at least one major depressive episode in 2012.

In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that mental illness – which affected 7% of the population — had overtaken heart disease and cancer as the biggest burden on China’s health care system. Among its causes are psychological, psychosocial, genetic, and biological factors. In addition, long-term substance abuse may cause or worsen depression symptoms.

People who have experienced adverse life events such as unemployment, bereavement and psychological trauma are more likely to develop depression. Depression can also lead to increased stress and dysfunction, and thus worsen the individual’s life situation. It becomes a vicious cycle that needs to be broken.

Diagnoses of depression go as far back as to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates who described a condition called melancholia, characterized by mental and physical symptoms. The 16th American president, Abraham Lincoln, suffered from what now may be referred to as clinical depression. Former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill also suffered from it, and popularized the term “the black dog” in reference to it.

Depression is particularly common among those over 65 years of age, for whom unexplained memory loss, sleep problems or withdrawal may be signs of depression. This is particularly relevant in the case of China, since the number of Chinese older than 65 is expected to rise from approximately 100 million in 2005 to more than 329 million in 2050, which is more than the combined populations of Germany, Japan, France and Britain.

Increasingly, however, younger people also are affected by depression. It is possible that changing economic and social dynamics are responsible. The recent economic slowdown in the country, plus changes in the education and social front place increasing stress in the younger generations, some among whom struggle to cope. Anxiety and depression are frequent consequences.

Among adolescents, symptoms of depression include insomnia, fatigue, loss of appetite, lower attention span, apathy and lack of positive expectations. If they suffer from these symptoms for more than two weeks, they are probably suffering from depression.

In some cases, depression can lead to suicide, which has different characteristics than in Europe or the U.S. While in Western countries suicide is more common among men than women, in China suicide is more common among women, particularly rural women. Unlike in the U.S., where men kill themselves with firearms, rural women in China use strong agricultural pesticides that are kept in the house.

It is estimated that 90 percent of Chinese who have committed suicide have never sought psychological care, a situation that needs to be urgently addressed since it can help prevent this kind of outcome. Those living in rural areas also suffer from inadequate emergency care.

Stigma against mental disease –including depression- is still prevalent in China, as well as in most countries around the world. Clinical depression is treatable and, if not addressed, can give rise to serious complications, including suicide.

Effective treatments that include psychotherapy and the use of medication should be made readily available, wherever possible. In addition, the use of local health educators who can outreach to rural communities would be an important step in identifying depression among those who do not have access to mental health resources close to home.

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
David Yearsley
Smoke on the Water: Jazz in San Francisco
Elliot Sperber
All of Those Bezos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail