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June 2018 (Vol. 3 Issue 4)

Depression is caused by bad experiences (not genetics and not a chemical imbalance)
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Depression is caused by bad experiences (not genetics and not a chemical imbalance) image

Depression is caused by bad experiences—and not by our genes (or even a chemical imbalance), a new study has found. Now leading psychologists are calling for an end to funding for research that continues to seek a genetic or biological cause of the mental condition.

Our environment and life experiences can lead to depression—and changes in circumstance can also alleviate the problem, say researchers from Northwestern University.

“If someone has a strong history of depression in her family and is afraid she or her future children will develop depression, our study is reassuring,” said lead researcher Eva Redei.

Their study involved laboratory rats that had been bred for depression—they had blood bio-markers for depression—whose environment was changed, with larger cages, toys and places where they could hide and climb.

After a month in the new environment, their behaviour improved and their bio-markers for depression had significantly decreased.

It also worked in reverse: changing the environment to something that was less ‘rat-friendly’ created a sense of depression in other rats.

Now leading psychologists want to see funding diverted from seeking out genetic and biological causes of depression, and instead put into understanding social and environmental causes.

Peter Kinderman, professor of clinical psychology at Liverpool University, told the BBC 4 Today programme: “It (genetics) detracts from the idea that trauma in childhood is a very, very powerful predictor of serious problems,” he said.

The Medical Research Council has given hundreds of millions of pounds of research grants to researchers who have been exploring genetic causes.


References

(Sources: Translational Psychiatry, 2016; 6(3): e770; BBC Radio 4 Today programme, March 28, 2016)

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