Research has confirmed that mental health problems like depression and anxiety-related disorders are on the increase. In fact, by 2020 it is predicted that depression will cause more disability than any other physical or mental disease. This prediction is alarming as mental health problems can have significant effects on social, occupational, educational and physical function.
While increases in rates of depression and other mental health disorders may be due to increased recognition and acceptance of these problems, it is also likely that there are several other reasons why we may be seeing increased prevalence rates. Five potential causes are listed below:
We have become a lot less physically active over the last few decades. We spend a lot more time engaging in sedentary activities such as watching TV and using computers and other electrical devices. This reduced physical activity has changed our hormonal balance, leading to less ‘anti-inflammatory and antioxidant’ related hormones. Reduced physical activity also lowers mood-lifting neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.
We have become a society addicted to convenience. Previously we spent a lot more time cooking and planning meals. Nowadays, we gravitate toward ‘convenience’ foods that are often low in nutrients and high in additives. Nutrients are essential for metabolic processes in our body and deficiencies in vitamins and minerals can impair the production of several neurotransmitters such as serotonin.
In addition to this, we are eating less fresh, wholesome foods. As the freshness of foods deteriorate, so does the nutrient quality. What makes matters worse are the chemicals and fertilisers that are added to foods which undoubtedly affect our physical health.
We are social beings. As a result we desire (and require) social interaction. Unfortunately we are spending more time indoors, engaging in isolated activities. Most of us don’t even know our neighbours anymore. Family is also scattered all over the country which limits our interaction with loved ones. Having social interaction and social support is important to help us cope with daily stressors.
This can include recreational drugs (e.g., nicotine and alcohol) or illicit drugs. However, we must also not forget our increased reliance on pharmaceutical medications. We now expect drugs to fix our problems because it is simply easier. Antidepressants drugs are now one of the most commonly prescribed medication in the world. While they can be helpful for many people, they provide supposed ‘simple’ solutions to improve our mood. However, are body and mind is far more complex than this. We need to look at the causes of our low mood or increased anxiety. This involves changing many unhealthy and unhelpful lifestyle-based habits.
We have been blessed to be gifted with several ‘natural’ solutions to improve wellbeing. Vitamin D from the sun is free and natural, and is associated with several health-promoting metabolic processes in the body. Natural herbs and spices also have numerous healing properties and research now confirms that they can prevent or treat several diseases. In fact the spice saffron has proven to be a very effective treatment for depression. Theanine from green tea helps promote relaxation, and the plant Rhodiola can increase energy and lower stress-related fatigue.
If you are suffering from a mental health problem such as depression, or are feeling stressed, consider some of the factors above and make necessary changes to minimise their ill-effects on your mind and body. You will be surprised how helpful they can be!