Living in western societies more likely to trigger depression

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Indy Lifestyle Online

People who are genetically inclined towards depression are more likely to become depressed in western societies and they are better off in East Asian cultures where there is greater tolerance and support for the condition.

Scientists from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois found in a cross-cultural study of mental health that depression -- which they say is both genetically and environmentally determined -- is more likely to manifest itself in more individualist western societies but that the more collectivist, eastern cultures provide more understanding and social support.

"Such support seems to buffer vulnerable individuals from the environmental risks or stressors that serve as triggers to depressive episodes," said Joan Chiao, lead author of the study, in a statement. "Western cultures are more likely to value uniqueness over harmony, expression over agreement and to define themselves as unique or different from the group."

Researchers studied the genetic data (the variants of the serotonin transporter gene associatedwith depression) of populations from 29 countries and found more prevalence of depression in western populations even though in East Asia, nearly 80 percent of the population has been found to be genetically susceptible to depression.

Actual depression in East Asian countries like China and Korea, as well as in Singapore, was significantly lower than in individualistic nations, such as the United States and Western Europe, the study said.

The findings could have implications on understanding the causes of depression as well as developing culture-based treatments.

"We need to move away from quick and dirty methods of treatment for depression, especially for those genetically susceptible to developing mental illnesses, " Chiao said.

The study was published online Oct. 28 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.