Monday, April 25, 2011

Depression and Marriage

The prevalence of depression seems to be paralleling the growth of modernity. One review of several studies found that:

• The incidence of depression has risen every year since the early 20th century…The reported prevalence of depressive disorders varies throughout the world. The lowest rates are reported in Asian and Southeast Asian countries. Percentages represent the lifetime chance that a person will experience a depressive episode that lasts a year or more. For example, Taiwan reports less than 2%, and Korea 3%. Western countries typically report higher rates, such as Canada 7%, New Zealand 11%, and France 16%. The United States has a rate of 6%. (3/3/11)

The findings seem to be somewhat consistent:

• “Depression…for those born after 1950 is as much as twenty times higher than the incidence rate for those born before 1910.” (Buie, “Me decades Generation depression,” APA Monitor, Feb. 91)

Meredith Foster, a writer with the Columbia University student newspaper, cited another interesting study pinpointing the prevalence of depression among college students:

• According to a 2008 survey of 80,121 students by the American College Health Association, 78.7 percent of students felt very sad during the past school year, 43 percent felt so depressed they could barely function, and 9 percent seriously considered suicide.

However, there seems to be much diversity among the explanations for this serious and ballooning phenomenon. Some researchers cite stress and competition. However, these have always been part of the college experience. Others cite our growing consciousness of the problems of the world. However, this explanation seems to be quite far-removed. Besides, this too seems to have always been part of the human condition. We therefore have to seek the explanation among causal factors that have been growing alongside of the depression.

Often times, the answers are very close to home, but our philosophical lens might be preventing us from seeing them. In her review of Unprotected by a psychiatrist at the student health service at UCLA, Miriam Grossman, Mona Charen writes,

• What does Dr. Grossman believe that is so dangerous to admit? Well, start with ordinary sex. She believes that casual, promiscuous sex is tough on many women. They are hard-wired to bond with those they have sex with (the hormone oxytocin is implicated), and she sees countless female students reporting stress, eating disorders and even depression for reasons they cannot understand. After all, the world sells them on the notion that sex is pure recreation, that the "hook-up" culture is natural and even empowering to women, and that love and sex are two completely different things.

Such remarks will not pass a test of political correctness, but there is much to suggest their merit. In another study published in 2005,

• Sexual behavior patterns came before depression, not after them. Girls with multiple sex partners were about 11 times more likely than virgins to report elevated depression symptoms (World, 6/4/11, 40)

The fact that sexual behavior preceded the reported depression suggests sex as the cause and not the effect, as some have alleged

In contrast to uncommitted sex, the positive findings in favor of traditional marriage are impressive. According to, 1/31/11:

• Two medical students at Cardiff University studying existing data on the relationship of marriage to health have concluded that “stable, long term, exclusive relationships” lead to “more healthy lifestyles and better emotional and physical health,” and have a marked effect on longevity.

• Authors David Gallacher and John Gallacher cite a Cambridge study of “one billion person years across seven European countries that found that married persons had age adjusted mortality rates that were 10-15% lower than the population as a whole,” and that this statistic alone makes stable marriage “probably worth the effort.”

• The authors found that “physical and mental health benefits seem to accrue over time,” citing a 30-year longitudinal study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry which found that “the duration of a relationship was associated with better mental health scores, while the difference in mortality rates in favour of marriage, increases with age”

• “Exclusive and supportive relationships confer substantial mental and physical health benefits that grow over time.” (. The study, titled “Are relationships good for your health?” was published in the British Medical Journal on January 28, 2011.)

This conclusion is further justified when we look at the fate of children outside of the traditional marriage. In The Case for Marriage, Gallagher and Waite claim:

• “A preschooler living with one biological parent and one step-parent was forty times more likely to be sexually abused than one living with two natural parents.” (159).

Perhaps, there is more to marriage that meets the eye, and less to uncommitted sex. Perhaps, God knew what He was doing when He joined a man to a woman:

• For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

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