More Preliminary Research

As the article I looked at last time was all about the prevalence of depression in China, I felt the next appropriate step to take would be to look into how depression presents in China, what the symptoms are, what may be seen as causing the mental illness, especially what socioeconomic factors may be causing the recent drastic increase in cases of depression in China, and the interesting anomaly of the lower prevalence of depression in China.

The first article I reviewed talked a bit about the supposed somatic presentation of depression in China.  The article, a study conducted in 2008 by Ryder, experimented with the concept of somatic symptoms being a result of the social shape of a collectivist culture.  These somatic symptoms are physical in nature.  In his study, Ryder looks for symptoms like poor appetite, lack of sleep, headache or body pain, heart or breathing problems, and tremors.  Ryder concludes that while suffering from depression in a collectivist culture one is or can be aware of one’s feelings; one can chose to ignore or not make those independent feelings central to one’s life.  Further, I believe that Ryder is implying that one is not aware that one is purposefully presenting somatic symptoms.  I am inclined to believe that individuals do not display somatic symptoms to save face.  Rather, I am inclined to believe this presentation style of symptoms lies in a lower level, perhaps in the underlying assumptions, of Chinese culture.

The culture debateThe next article I looked at speculated as to why depression in much more prevalent in individualistic cultures than it is in collectivist cultures.  The article talks about something it dubs the “Culture of We”.  Speaking from the current base of knowledge on the causes of depression, the article notes that there are genetic, as well as environmental factors to the occurrence of depression.  The study referred to in the article, which took place at Northwestern University in 2009, looked at possible reasons as to why though there are those who were genetically susceptible to depression in China, there is a much lower rate of depression in China and other collectivist cultures than there is in individualistic cultures.  Based on the facts of the study, the article argues that the strong social ties formed in a collectivist relationship act as a buffer to at rick persons.  Thus, in stressful times, Chinese individuals tend to have a better social structure and support system than that of their individualistic culture counterparts.

As for recent socioeconomic factors, not only has China become more westernized in recent decades, but the economic and political changes that have taken place are dizzying.   Perhaps this quick switch from a planned economy to a mixed system has caused some discomfort or confusion among the Chinese.  Another possible cause for confusion is the transition of China in the post-Mao era.  I am interested to hypothesize more, research more, and hopefully from field experience, gain some understanding of the underlying, casual factors at play.