According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 5% of the world's adults are affected by depression. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Yet even today, this mental disorder is not necessarily taken seriously in terms of the need for prevention and treatment. Since treatment options are now available for all stages of depression, better awareness of its nature and causes could help in dealing with this disorder promptly and effectively. The following fact sheet from IQ.HSE summarizes several recent research findings on depression, including its contributing factors and manifestations in today's digital society.
The social and psychological consequences of inequality are a major research focus worldwide. A recent paper examines the mental health consequences of poverty and social inequity and demonstrates that the experience of poverty, particularly during childhood, is associated with negative outcomes such as depression, and that higher rates of depression are found in populations with greater income inequality.
Studies in Russia also show a connection between poverty and adverse mental health consequences. HSE and World Bank researchers have found that the risk of falling into poverty was associated with lower subjective wellbeing and life satisfaction in almost all population groups.
HSE researchers have confirmed that impostor syndrome can cause benign perfectionism to develop into psychological distress. Impostor syndrome can affect anyone irrespective of occupation, but it is particularly common in women who have made major achievements in business or academia. A person who suffers from maladaptive perfectionism, i.e., the tendency to place excessive, unattainable demands on oneself, often focuses obsessively on what they have not accomplished and fears exposure.
The HSE study suggests that impostor syndrome fully mediates the link between perfectionism and anxiety, and partly that between perfectionism and depression. Manifestations of impostor syndrome thus need to be addressed in order to prevent the occurrence of depression.
Numerous studies have shown that a loss of social status can lead to depression. A person's response to status challenges and conflicts seems to play a major role. A person’s decision to discontinue an obviously useless struggle for status thus contributes to better mental health outcomes.
Deliberate self-deprecation carries the maximum risks of depression. In his book Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry , physician, scientist and author Dr Randolph M. Nesse suggests that the social strategy of self-deprecation serves as defence against attacks by someone who is more powerful. He uses the example of a spouse who downplays their own accomplishments and merits, even in their own eyes, in order to preserve the marriage.
But there is also good news. Older people appear to suffer less from depression, despite factors such as retirement, children moving out, loss of habitual social roles and activities, and others. A HSE study found lower rates of apathy and depression and higher levels of subjective happiness in people aged 65 and older.
The authors note that the decrease in negative characteristics can be explained by the so-called 'emotional paradox in the aging brain'. Compared to younger adults, it has been shown that older people react less to negative situations, ignore irrelevant negative stimuli better, and remember relatively more positive than negative information.
This conclusion is consistent with earlier findings. A large international study conducted in 145 countries confirmed the 'happiness U-curve' that describes the relationship between age and subjective happiness and indicates that subjective happiness levels are at their lowest around the age of 50 — or more exactly, at 48, and gradually increase after that.
Recently, researchers have become interested in whether it is possible to predict an individual's mental state by looking at their social media profiles. While most research in this area has been conducted by international authors, there are a few studies from Russia. One of these studies uses data from the VKontakte (currently, VK ) social network.
It turns out that some unobvious signs can indicate depression in VKontakte/ VK users, such as being subscribed to numerous 'interesting' pages and chats and having a large number of 'friends'. The researchers assume that a depressed person may be using excessive social media presence to compensate for limited real-life communication and socialization.
A large number of posted statuses and audio recordings can also indicate depression, as such statuses do not involve direct communication. The same applies to audio recordings. In addition, users suffering from depression may be listening to music more as a means of emotional regulation.