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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Depression and Stress in Modern Populations

When it comes to psychological health effects on the body, one significant area of study concerns stress and depression.  There have been various evolutionary perspectives on the reason for this adaptation.  The influence of culture has a wide range of impact from diagnosis of depressive symptoms to meeting cultural expectations set aside by a particular society.  In many ways, modern society and the influence of capitalism contributes to nationwide increases in depression and stress.  Balancing work with familial demands, as noted by a large portion of women in industrialized areas, can cause a great deal of stress which, in return, increases the risks for heart disease and other illnesses.  It has been suggested that the adaptation for depression and stress evolved out of ways to conserve energy, elicit investment from mates, and signal against aggressors that one does not pose a threat.  Depressive moods evolutionarily seek to elicit social support from others, thus benefiting the individual.  The problem is that environments have changed due to industrialism and, consequently, depression and stress have only amplified.
          Also significant are the studies involving stress and depression in relation to lower income individuals.  These effects are notably higher in these individuals due to the increasing demands in order to make a living.  In many cases, both depression and stress, when significant enough, become biologically linked to diseases anywhere from cardiovascular disease to susceptibility to the common cold.  Furthermore, as racial inequality affects Western nations, it can be noted that individuals of specific races are more likely to have lower income, and therefore more stress, rates of disease, and less access to medical care.  It is difficult to determine whether these symptoms of depression and stress are seen to this extent in other societies or previous ones.  However, modern industrialization has continuously seemed to provide more links to susceptibility to disease than in those of other societies.  Nowadays, clinical depression and prolonged periods of stress are highly affecting human populations which adversely affect health in significant and life-threatening ways.  As sociality is key for human beings to survive, studies note that people are now more isolated caused by increased urbanization, mobility, and demographic changes.  There is certainly less face-to-face contact now than ever befor.  Such social isolation is already a key factor in causing depression itself, let alone the physiological genetic components that have accumulated over time.
          Now, contemporary western society also rewards those who allocate a significant portion of their efforts to one area of life, such as education or work instead of in small groups of people devoting their work to a shared goal among kin, as seen in hunter-gatherer populations.  Significantly enough, hunter-gatherers knew no such thing as “relative poverty,” an increasing notion in contemporary society and a large contributor to depression.  Studies on this effect have been carried out for decades, yet the problem has intensified today, particularly with current political crusades against healthcare and job creation and their overall desire for commoditization of human life.  A number of studies also show that those who report depression or stress are much more likely to develop coronary heart disease, cancer, and even diabetes.  The important take-home message here is that the particular (especially GOP) politics of living in a skewed income hierarchy are simply unacceptable.  These people can think they can get away with riding the backs of the nation for their own luxury, but the environment in which we live is not going to sustain itself.  These crooks will find out about their “Darwinism” excuses the hard way when there’s no resources left on earth.  What a pity it will be for them.