Why is depression more common in richer countries?

The unfortunate suicide and demise of Robin Williams has renewed a debate on depression in the social media. In an earlier post in this blog – The Joy of a rustic life –  it was described how the poor seem to be far happier than the rich. Yes there are times of devastation when the poor have no support or buffer, such as a poor farmer in debt and drought who is driven to suicide but in the main I have found this conclusion to hold most times.

This phenomenon appears to apply not just to the rich and poor but also between rich and poor countries. Levels of stress and depression are much higher in the richer countries of the world than the poor who seem to laugh much more after saying Manyahna with a banana for lunch. I have experienced this at close quarters after having lived in both types of countries for several years. When a poor country or even a rich one is mentioned here, the reference is to those that are not disturbed by an internal or external war, even an internal drug war, or a brutal dictator because living conditions in these are often close to hell. Those who are past sixty could test this proposition with a comparison with their own countries some fifty-sixty years ago when the country was perhaps not as rich.

The answer to our title question is not far to seek. Although things like physical exercise, sunshine, communing with nature, living a natural life with natural food and medicines etc. can contribute towards decreasing stress and depression what contributes most is  a control on things like greed, selfishness and being overly concerned with one self and ones goals, success etc. Lending a helping hand or thought to others in need or distress is the finest tonic for this condition, for depression that persists is nothing but a signal from the soul that it is sinking in the eyes of the universe, that its real worth is reducing, even though it may be succeeding in the eyes of the world while happiness the reverse. Taking a drug to help alleviate the situation may be the worst possible solution because after its temporary relief the condition is likely to return with greater force if changes have not been made in the very conditions that caused it in the first place. If the drug is continued its side effects may kill sooner than the depression will. Perhaps a glass of wine would be safer in many cases, in the very least it is a natural product and not a chemical from a lab.

It is a common observation that the poor are far more generous than the rich with whatever little they have and that as humans get more they get even greedier so that the compensations and bonuses of bankers and top executives who have the controlling strings in their hands sky rocket, unless controlled by law or tax as in happier Scandinavian countries, and still do not seem to be enough.

This same point has been expressed through an interpretation of yoga in an earlier post on entropy yoga and high and low entropy countries (here). What has been described is that although order and discipline are prerequisites to evolution and development, something that the rich and developed nations have cultivated in  great abundance, by itself, they do not suffice and have to be followed up by inculcating the principles of love, truth and simplicity something that the poor seem to have in greater abundance.


The poor are happy since they live from day to day. They live for today and live it up to the fullest. They care,share,enjoy and are happy. They have no long term plans and goals, they do not worry about scrounging and saving for a rainy day.They live happily for today. They also sleep well.

Ashok said…
So well put Ramu, like the scriptures said - The sleep of a laboring man is sweet

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