It’s hard to believe, but Americans are the unhappiest people on earth. That is the conclusion of a new study by the World Health Organization and the Harvard Medical School, which found that 9.6 percent of Americans suffer from depression or bipolar disorder ? the highest rate of the 14 nations surveyed. Our “Prozac nation” has a greater percentage of depressed people than war-torn Lebanon (6.6 percent); job-starved Mexico (4.8 percent); carefree, hedonistic Italy (3.8 percent); and overworked, socially rigid Japan (3.1 percent). And how’s this for a paradox: Nigeria, a land of desperate poverty, rampant corruption and violent tribal conflict, had the lowest depression rate of all ? just 0.8 percent. How can this be? One possibility is that when your life is a struggle for clean water and adequate food, you don’t have time to indulge in existential despair. In New York, on the other hand, a lawyer making $200,000 a year may find himself “depressed” if he doesn’t make partner in his mid-30s. It may also be that in less modern societies, people find comfort and meaning in their families, their religion and their cultural traditions.
Vince Siciliano, Wall Street Journal’s The Week Magazine, 3/23/07
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