The Great Depression
Richest country, saddest people--any coincidence?
BY BRET STEPHENS
Friday, March 9, 2007 12:01 a.m.
"Oh, my God, I am so starving," says high-school student Brittany Birnbaum, who ate nothing except "a Twix and a half bag of Fritos" before her cheerleading tryout and whose stomach revolts at the sight of her mother's salisbury steak. "You know," she warns, "it's against the law to treat your kids like this."
"My God, I am starving," rejoins Kitum Asosa, starving African. "I would walk 100 miles through the desert to reach a handful of millet. The sight of a sparrow carcass would make my mouth water, if only I were not too dehydrated to salivate."
I am reminded of this immortal exchange--a satirical Point/Counterpoint in the online pages of the Onion--after reading about the results of a study, recently reported in Forbes, purporting to show that the U.S. has the highest rate of depression among a survey group of 14 countries. The study, jointly conducted by the World Health Organization and Harvard Medical School and based on more than 60,000 face-to-face interviews world-wide, found that 9.6% of Americans suffer from "bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder or chronic minor depression." A whopping 18.2% of Americans were also found to be experiencing "mood and anxiety disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder and panic disorder."
These figures come as no surprise: We are, after all, entering our 21st year as a Prozac nation. Consider the contrast with other countries. One can easily understand that Ukraine, land of Chernobyl, would have a comparatively high proportion of depressed people: 9.1%. One can equally understand that the rate of depression in Italy comes in at a low 3.8%. The only mystery there is how anyone could be depressed in Italy.
More interesting are the data about depression rates in poorer countries. In Lebanon, which in the last year has endured heavy Israeli bombardment, an internal refugee crisis,...