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Anthropology: Sociocultural Differences in Depression


Depression comes in all its own sizes. However, did you know that not one culture agrees on depression? According to cross-cultural studies, a lot of cultures have their own idea of what depression is.

Depression affects people depending on their social status. This includes differing cultural issues. Black women would be more depressed than white women. Wives and husbands have different effects because their roles differ.

Cross Cultural Depression

How Culture Affects Depression | Psychology Today

One of the main issues that really stands has a lot to do with cultural associations. Many would say that the best method is to find an interpreter. However, even an interpreter cannot understand different cultures.

Anthropological Approaches to Psychological Medicine

The main purpose of medical anthropology has been to care completely for patients other than your own. This has especially been the case for those across cultures. A lot of patterns indicate there is a commonality with mental illness. The concept of depression started from the acadia of the Medieval Monks, to Renaissance melancholy, to finally becoming associated with stress and guilt.

Depression Medication | Everyday Health

How Culture affects Mental illness

Culture plays a huge role in how mental illness plays out. There are a lot of different ways that culture exhibits this. In African and Eastern societies, moods often appear in language and physical suffering. This is unlike Western culture where depression is in feeling.

Cultural Influences on Mental Health | The Public Health Advocate

The Different Colors of Depression

Before going into an in-depth study of depression in other cultures, there are some commonalities that exist. Scholars studied Japan, Canada, and Switzerland. They all experienced sadness, lack of interest in life, and no concentration.

Concentration Disorders Symptoms: Related Conditions

Another aspect to keep into mind is personal history plays a bigger role in how depression is expressed. Culture on the other hand affects the way that the depressive symptoms are communicated.

Depression based upon Cultural Construct

Cultural roles play a big role in how depression comes about. Gender differences played a role in Ghana and South Africa. A lot of these had to do with higher age, lack of quality work, and quality of life. Women confined in a role makes them depressed about their lives.

Sociology of Depression - Effects of Culture - Depression: Depression &  Related Conditions

Increased Population

Another interesting aspect or depression across cultures involves population. In Africa bigger populations mean highly competitive markets. It puts a lot of pressure on young people. A lot of them fail to realize their dreams. They turn to substance abuse.

Does Substance Abuse Cause Depression? | Addiction Treatment

Commitments to Improve Mental Health

Across different cultures, organizations have come together in order to improve mental health. The World Health Assembly agreed to increase coverage of mental illness. They wanted service coverage by 20 percent. They also wanted to reduce suicide rates by 10 percent.

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Misunderstandings about Depression

In a lot of cultures, people misunderstand depression. South Africans call depression “white man’s illness.” If anyone opened up about it, they would be labeled an “attention seeker.” When a worker started crying in the office, the boss immediately came to the conclusion somebody died. This is how ignorant South Africans are of depression.

Six Common Misconceptions about Depression

Mental Illness globally

As a matter of factly mental illness has often been one of the top contributors in terms of how they deal with it. It is now the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide. Suicide also amounts to the same amount of deaths as wars and homicides. Clearly this demonstrates the real effect that mental illness really has on society. Not only that, but it also demonstrates how there are some universals in terms of mental illness. It shows how there can be a shared solution to the issue of mental illness.

Ethno Psychology

            Ethno psychology refers to the indigenous representations of the mind, body, and emotion of self. It studies the effect that culture has upon depression. The article “Depression Ethno-Psychological Themes” talks about how the different cultural representations of sadness is what makes depression come out in different forms. Despite the fact that there are a lot of commonalities depression has with other regions like the United States, there are differences in the expression because of the cultural differences. Cultural influences creates variation with the sources of depression. This means that depression can take different forms.

PPT) Psych 108 FINAL Venn of Sub Disciplines | Joyce Escalicas -

Emotions and Cultural Systems

There are many aspects of the human psyche separate from culture. One of these includes emotions. Cultural orientation ultimately forms different types of experiences with how people express emotions. Different contexts among cultures cause there to be a lot of variation in regards to how people express themselves. It is especially apparent with how the context of emotion elaborates itself. The Kauli of Papua New Guinea use emotions as a way of reciprocating for one another. If there was somebody that experienced a loss, then they would try to mend that person. Therefore, the Kauili rarely experience depression.

Cultures that don’t have tolerance for Depression

On the other hand, other cultures do not have as much tolerance for depression. The Chinese for example express different forms of sadness. The Chinese villagers express it in an open manner. However, the middle-class Chinese people try to repress their emotional status. The only time that middle class Chinese will ever express their emotions is through their family members. These types of different approaches to sadness according to the Chinese shows how there is a difference with the class. For the Chinese that are more open about it, they feel that they need to express it more for their poor background. The ones that feel the need to repress it feel the need to act more upper class.

Powerful Depression Quotes & Sayings With Images | The Right Messages

Commonalities of Depression

This also generally shows how there are a lot of commonalities with depression had how it leads to the fact that prolonged sadness really has an effect when it comes to depression. Prolonged sadness and loss of interest in activities has often reared its head as some of the main reasons as to why people suffer from depression. It also goes to show how depression really prevents people from acting—it’s because it absorbs the energy of people.

Epidemiology of depression - Wikipedia

Healing Aspects in Depression

Another rather controversial aspect about depression that is common across all cultures has a lot to do with the healing aspect. One of the major ways to heal from depression involves trying to keep connected with other people. This is very akin to how a lot of cultures center a lot on the factor of tribalism. Tribalism has played a major role in how a lot of different cultures developed. The fact that one of the major ways in order to heal from depression is to keep in touch really shows how important the aspect of human contact really is.

As Fissures Between Political Camps Grow, 'Tribalism' Emerges As The Word  Of 2017 : NPR

Health Literacy

The best way that different societies manage to treat the symptoms related to depression and anxiety has a lot to do with health literacy, or how much someone knows about a certain illness. Usually, this form of health literacy is more in tune with how privileged an individual is. This means that the people who are more upper class tend to have a lot more resources when it comes to mental illness compared to the people that do not share that privilege. The ethnic groups of Latinos and African Americans are usually the ones that suffer the most.

The African American who moved to Ghana 'to escape US racism' - BBC News

Medicine across Cultures

Another issue that is very prevalent among different cultures has to do with the discussion regarding medicine. For some people, these types of discussions within different cultures require a degree of trust. For cultural groups that are discriminated in real life, this can be challenging considering that the institutions may not be trustworthy to minorities. This is another example in which minorities feel as if they have an extra burden placed upon them in trying to beat depression. With their sexuality or skin color, they have an extra layer of stigma placed upon them that prevents them from being fully integrated.

Hard-to-treat depression in seniors focus of $13.5 million study –  Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

This is why there are a lot of mental health clinics that are very culturally sensitive. Another universal aspect of the problem of depression is that there are a lot of people that try to seek out help in order to fix some of the depression symptoms they face throughout their life. It also shows how a lot of them need to reach out for help in order to receive the necessary assistance that they need regardless of culture. Overall, the cultural influences that depression has on each of the different people of other cultures shows how there are some universals with this.

Depression: Facts, Statistics, and You

How Depression varies in Meaning across the World

One of the major topics within the issue of depression has a lot to do with the fact that there is suffering. Now, suffering can take on a number of different forms depending on the culture. For Buddhists, a lot of them see suffering as a necessary element. For Catholics and Christians, suffering is usually categorized as being too distant from the divine being. All of this goes to show that there are a lot of different aspects of suffering in cultures and how they get talked about.

Six common depression types - Harvard Health

Culture Specific Approach to Depression

This brings in a question: Should there be a more culturally specific approach to depression? Clearly as much as there are universals to how depression is diagnosed, it also goes to show how there are a lot of different ways that people handle it. In Japan, the people have a lot of different ways that they train people to recognize depression. They help the people recognize both major and minor depression symptoms. Overall, certain approaches to depression would have led to ethnocentrism. Therefore, it is best to think about the differences cultures have towards others.

How Culture Affects Depression | Psychology Today

Genetic variables vs. cultural variables

One of the biggest debates that centers around mental illness has a lot to do with if there are any genetic variables that play a factor. One of the examples includes East Asian genes. Even thought it could be thought that East Asian are most likely to suffer more from depression, they rarely get the disorder. This goes to show how there are a lot of different responses with the way that depression actually operates. It usually does not have so much to do with the cultural norms that exist within that society.

Cultural Variables Presentation: GENDER by David Bolsby

Cultural Constructs

Other than issues of cultural constructs, another problem that rises up with mental illness is the personal stories behind patients. It is because of this that there will hopefully be more awareness of stereotypes and not give in to them. The personal stories also gives more insight into the cultural backgrounds of a lot of the patients. By being able to hear out the story of the depressed patient, the doctor would also have a less likelihood of under- or overestimating the depressive symptoms that are plaguing the patient.

PDF] Cultural constructs that impede discussions about variability in  speech-based educational models for deaf children with cochlear implants |  Semantic Scholar

Symptoms and Reaction to Trauma

A lot of disparity exists among cultures in relation to trauma. Minority groups tend to be affected by depression and other symptoms more so than those in the majority group because they come from poorer environments. It is also very difficult to communicate with these types of people because they do not conform with the personnel that a lot of people expect. This causes there to be real differences in terms of how the patient communicates with the doctor. THe patient has a different kind of background. Therefore, this limits the communication the patient has with the doctor. Their cultural background creates a barrier between both of them.

International Student's Cultural Background | Cambridge Network

Anxiety and depression expressed in culture

There is very little proof that all cures for depression and anxiety work in all cultures. There are many forms of effective treatment against depression and anxiety. These range from medicine to exercises. However, the cultures is an important factor to consider. Depending on the culture that the person originates from, these kinds of methods to heal them may actually be harmful to them if it does not put into context the specific culture they are from. Therefore, there are a lot of medication centers trying to become more culturally educated in order to better help them.

Feeling Anxious or Depressed? Consider Using Art as Medicine |

Anthropological Significance

Overall, depression is a very numbing experience to all individuals within a culture. There are a lot of similarities other cultures have with symptoms of depression. Both of them tend to focus a lot on sadness. There is a loss of interest with activities as well. This demonstrates how there is a similarity that a lot of people that suffer from depression share. However, along with these similarities there is also a lot of differences in terms of the cultural approaches to mental illness. It is because of these differences that doctors must be culturally educated.

It's Hard. 13 Quotes that Illustrate Depression • Youth Dynamics | Mental  Health Care for Montana Kids

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