Why are we sad?

Even though those of us living in developed nations live longer and healthier, we are more depressed than those living in poor countries. Why is this? World Health Organization (WHO) research shows that mental illness (depression, etc.) is the leading factor in disease burden for high income nations. Depression leads to more loss of quality of life upon society as a whole than does heart disease or cancer. So as science advances in maintaining our biological health a more profound illness rises to the surface. Sadness remains our basic ailment when other sicknesses and needs are resolved. Quite simply we are rich, healthy… and sad (by healthy I mean that we do not face illness due to respiratory infections and diarrheal disease like they do in Bhutan, Haiti or Ghana).

The WHO also projects that when poor countries overcome sanitary problems and infectious disease, they too will find mental illness as their number one problem. And it’s not just that the incidence of other problems is decreasing. Mental illness rates are a growing problem for mankind. How can it be that when we are healthier that we are not content?

What are the conventional weapons in this war against despair? Some try alcohol or drugs but these only make things worse. So we try the easy solution: pills. But, according to Harvard research, antidepressants, apart from their placebo effect, might not be that effective (see 60 Minutes segment and my post). We also have counseling which is helpful and teaches us valuable coping mechanisms, but what about true healing?

Meanwhile statistics show that modern civilization is becoming less religious. Could there be a connection? Many studies show that participation in religious activity bestows a protective factor against illness both mental and physical. Certainly the decline of the practice of faith has something to do with emerging mental health problems.

So If I pray to “Nature” that my body and mind move towards health is that enough? A lot of scientific information is being gathered about this. For example, in spiritual persons, brain scans show changes in the thalamus part of the brain. The scientist has been quite busy describing the bodily changes that go with faith. No doubt there are those scurrying to discover some expensive medication to duplicate the process that a spiritual life brings us. We want the cream filling but none of the effort that goes along with it. If we fall in love because we drink a love potion is it really love?

When God intervenes in our lives He leaves an observable trail. In the Bible we read of sight restored and lepers healed. Some of us are witnesses to healings. Many of us were down, depressed or addicted when Jesus restored us. But is it our belief itself that heals? Or is it God?

“Your faith has healed you.”

“Your faith has saved you.”

We are weakened or strengthened by what life presents to us. Jesus came into my life, healed me and saved me. He continues to do so. The science behind it intrigues me, but I know it all just chases the wind. It blows where and when it chooses and understanding this is where God’s wisdom begins.

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8 comments on “Why are we sad?

  1. ansuyo says:

    The poorer nations probably appreciate what they have. I do think there could be (did I say could be?) a connection between a relationship with God and peace. Angie

    • Vince Chough says:

      Hi Angie! Yes, some of the studies commented on this. Also when you are fighting each day for your daily bread or merely to survive you don’t have much time to think about being depressed. Bless you.

  2. Tammy says:

    Thank you, Vince, for this inspirational essay. A family member is going through depression right now and I am trying to help her and this is dead-on.

  3. granbee says:

    I reallly believe,Vince, that everyone living outside of Grace and in the absence of the filling of the Holy Spirit is going to be sad a lot–they know there is a empty dark hole in their souls! How could they not be sad?

  4. I was just thinking about this the other day in regards to generations but now I see it can be applied to developed vs. undeveloped countries. My theory is that we don’t have any real hardships in our lives so we create them. We’ve never really had to face true adversity (i.e. the Greatest Generation and WWII) and learn to work together to overcome it. Now everything is handed to us on a silver platter, we don’t really have to sacrifice to get what we want yet we’re still not satisfied. I can see the same regarding mental health. We have so much yet we still feel empty. Rather than turn to God for fulfillment we try drugs, pills, etc (like you said) or acquiring more stuff. I wonder what it will take for people to wake up?

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