Are We Happy Yet?

A few days ago, I stumbled upon an article on depression. I wasn’t surprised to learn that people who live in urban areas have a 39% higher risk of “mood disorders” than those who live in the country. Take your pick: waiting in line, waiting for the subway, waiting in traffic or waiting for a host of ambulances and firetrucks (all with their alarms blaring) to go by. One of these is bound to happen to you at least once every day when you live in the city. Now, imagine living (as my brother once did) in a county in eastern Washington state that is nearly the size of Connecticut and knowing that there was only one stoplight in existence. People might wait in line just to look at it.

I was a little surprised to find out that affluent nations have higher rates of depression than countries with lower average incomes. I wonder whether we have become so highly trained and specialized that we have lost the skill of living. So when we lose our jobs (as so many have in recent years), we no longer know what to do to survive. How depressing! Can you build a house from mud and cow dung, or forage for food without the risk of poisoning yourself? But get this: suicide risk climbs (literally) with altitude. So why is it that in 2011, Lithuania won the dubious honor of achieving the highest rate of suicide? The tallest peak in that country is only 964 feet above sea level. I don’t understand this, but I would be more than happy to go to the beach if anyone wants to join me.

I like this one: depression is linked to too many choices. My first husband was originally from Tibet though he spent most of his childhood in Nepal. When he first came to the U.S., he adored perusing the dog food aisle in the supermarket. So many choices! Americans treat their dogs like kings! What wonderful karma we must be accruing! But perhaps the only reason my ex was so delighted with an infinite number of puppy chow choices was because he had just managed to escape from some of the highest altitudes in the world.

An older study in Taiwan indicates that mothers with three or more children experience a 60% decrease in suicide-related mortality as compared to those with only one child. Since I have three kids, I can speak from personal experience. When I was clearly out-numbered, I had no choice but to surrender. There is a certain peace of mind that comes from giving up. But there are a few exceptions. First, if you have any daughters, they better like fish (mine don’t). A Finnish study showed a link between eating less fish (and omega-3 fatty acids) and depression in women. This means they’ll be grumpy if I give them fish for dinner and they’ll be grumpy if I don’t. But not so with men! This means my son does not have to bear any ill consequences from his strong aversion to fish. On the other hand, if my girls start picking a fight with him, they will all be more likely to be depressed later in life. Kids who get along with their siblings before they reach adulthood are happier when they grow older than those who squabbled throughout childhood. Go figure. Here’s the kicker: how much a kid fights with his or her parent appears to have no bearing on their happiness quotient when they grow up.

A friend of mine recommends this light-hearted approach: when you feel yourself getting depressed, just remember that a problem is really nothing more than an opportunity with an attitude.

About HomenDunRoamin

Teaching Artist & Writer: fiction, poetry & nonfiction. Recently completed work: a hybrid memoir. In progress: a novel set in an unnamed Latin American country on the brink of war. The book examines violent and nonviolent resistance and the choices women are forced to make to survive.
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4 Responses to Are We Happy Yet?

  1. pablo medina says:

    A cure for depression has come to me rather late in life: find yourself a good partner. I got myself a fine one.

  2. Jule Crotty-Guile says:

    Love the country. NYC became extremely depressing after a few years and I know that country life and sun make all the difference for many. A beautiful backyard with singing birds is a close second. Nice article. What’s your real name?

    • Jule: Thanks for stopping by, I’m glad you liked this post. I used to consider myself a country dweller first and foremost, but as I said to someone recently, I have crossed over to the ‘dark side’ and have grown to love the chaos of urban life. That said, I definitely need to get away from time to time– into the woods or on top of a mountain or near– even better: in– a body of water. And sun! Yes, it is essential. My real name is Debka Colson. (If you’re interested, more can be found through the “About” link at the top of my blog). I hope you’ll come by again!

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