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In 2010, The Wired wrote an article called "Why Russians Don't Get Depressed", describing a paper in Psychological Science.

Others, such as The Atlantic and Reuters, wrote about the study as well.

The article made many bold observations, such as

While rumination makes Americans depressed, it actually seems to provide an emotional buffer for Russians.

While the article is a fascinating read, I wonder if the above claim (not the title) and other claims made in the article are accurate?

  • 3
    Precisely which claim are you asking about? The (likely over-simplified) title claim "Russians don't get depressed", the quoted claim about rumination being "an emotional buffer" for Russians, or something else? – jwodder Jun 13 '17 at 0:51
  • @jwodder the quoted claim (if you must pick one -- the article makes other claims) – MaxB Jun 13 '17 at 1:18
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    One should note that depression often is manifested in the form of substance abuse. One USA study looked at the disparity in "depression" between men and women (women suffering from it more), and looked at societies where there was no alcohol abuse (Amish communities were used, all alcohol prohibited there), and the gender difference disappeared. Russian society has a huge alcohol abuse problem, so it might not be that Russians don't suffer from depression. Russians also have had some of the highest suicide rates in the world, but maybe that data is dated. – PoloHoleSet Jun 13 '17 at 17:13
  • @CPerkins the edit just highlights what's already been clarified (in the comments above you and under user5341's Q) – MaxB Jun 13 '17 at 20:23
  • """why is Y the case"" -- I'm not asking that. You are misreading again – MaxB Jun 13 '17 at 20:31
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As per Wikipedia's by-country list of depression in "Epidemiology of depression":

Rank    Country         DALY rate
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1       United States   1,454.74
127     Russia          856.718

So; while Russia's rate is indeed, only officially 60% that of USA, it's incorrect to say that Russians don't get depressed.

Additionally; mental health industry in Russia is far behind that of the USA; so it's not implausible that diagnosis rate is far lower in Russia.

  • 7
    Side note: I'm not quite sure how DALY rate (vs actual) figures into this, since depression is often correllated with higher age and Russia's average age is vastly lower than US. – user5341 Jun 12 '17 at 23:19
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    BTW, it's interesting that Japan is at the bottom of the list, but they are close to the top in suicides. – MaxB Jun 12 '17 at 23:34
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    856.718 may be nearly 60% of 1454.74, but it's actually about 41.1% less than it. – jwodder Jun 13 '17 at 0:50
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    And, do all the countries use the same diagnostic criteria? – WGroleau Jun 13 '17 at 3:26
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    @MaxB, that's something that stood out to me, too. That said, I've heard many times that Japanese culture generally shuns mental illness (and simply not being a successful, hard worker). Which really raises the question of how severely the diagnosis rate is impacting those numbers. I suspect that many countries have a massive gap between the number diagnosed and the number who actually have depression. – Kat Jun 16 '17 at 19:52
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The claim is not supported by the research the article is based on

The linked article says "Russians Don't Get Depressed", but they base that on a study which says nothing of the sort. The actual study focusses on the effects of what they call "self-reflection", not on depression itself:

In Study 1, self-reflection was associated with fewer depressive symptoms among Russians than among Americans. In Study 2, Russians displayed less distress and a more adaptive pattern of construals than Americans after reflecting over a recent negative event.

Fewer depressive symptoms associated with self-reflection is:

  1. not the same as less depression overall; and
  2. definitely not the same as not experiencing depression.

The claim in the article self-refutes from the posted links.

  • 1
    "The claim in the article self-refutes from the posted links." Correct me if I'm wrong, but you are replying to the "claim" in the title of the article, rather than the actual claims in the article. – MaxB Jun 13 '17 at 19:05
  • """why is Y the case"" -- I'm not asking that. You are misreading again. – MaxB Jun 13 '17 at 20:25
  • You misread. "... title, which can be understood as "why ..." " is a reference to the title of the article. My Q was very explicitly about the claims. – MaxB Jun 14 '17 at 17:11
3

This particular claim does seem to be supported by the study: rumination is more common among Russians but it is not indicative of depression (unlike rumination in Americans).

However, the framing of the paper presented in the article is misleading. The study has nothing to do with actual rates of depression, which, as mentioned by @CPerkins, might be severely underdiagnosed. The question investigated by the authors is simply:

Do attempts to reflect over and understand negative feelings lead to the same types of emotional outcomes in Russians as in Westerners?

The answer seems to be "no", which is an extremely interesting result, but it cannot and should not be interpreted as evidence that Russians as a population are more resistant to depression. A more accurate title would read: "Why Russians Are Less Likely to Get Depressed When Ruminating."

0

While depression is not the only cause of suicide, it is on the other hand, a good metric for determining mental wellness (suicide ideation is a mental illness all on its own) and just as importantly, it's not dependent on diagnosis or the willingness to get diagnosed.

In pure numbers of deaths ruled as suicide per 100,000 citizens, Russia ranked at the 20th highest, while the United States ranked 30th.

So the answer seems to be "no", Russians sure do get depressed.

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