Discovery Fit & Health
The World Health Organization estimates that about 121 million people worldwide have some form of depression, although less than 25 percent have access to effective treatment [source: WHO]. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 14.8 million adult Americans experience clinical depression in any given year -- or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population over 18 [source: NIH Depressive]. Women are more likely to have major depression than are men, and the average age for a bout of clinical depression to set in is 32 years old. Older adults also are depressed, however. In fact, people 65 years and older commit suicide at a higher rate than the national average [source: Senior Health]. The good news is that NIH statistics show that the percentage of all adults in the U.S. who are depressed went down a full percentage point from 2007 to 2008.
People with depression may also have addiction problems. Whether it's addiction to smoking, drugs or alcohol, there may be some tie to depression. Any addiction, such as to smoking, alcohol or drugs, may be an attempt to cover up depression. Generally speaking, men tend to be addicts before they get depressed, but for women the opposite is true. In one study, 50 percent of cocaine addicts admitted to having been depressed before they took the drug; up to 20 percent of alcoholics are thought to have been depressed before trying to relieve their symptoms by drinking [source: Goleman, Schmeck].
Depression is thought to be triggered by a lack of certain chemicals in the brain, so some people may smoke to correct that imbalance. Nicotine in cigarettes is a trigger for the release of serotonin in our brains, so it might make us feel good; indeed, a nicotine patch can help treat depression in some people. Depressed or not, nicotine will give you that feel-good kick, so although smoking may make you feel good, it doesn't necessarily mean you were depressed in the first place.
Another recent study found that women in their 30s and 40s who were depressed and prone to addiction had increasingly worse depression over time. The problems were worse if the women lived in unstable neighborhoods or if their husbands also had addiction or social problems, such as criminal records [source: Preidt]. The study authors say that their results challenge stigma about how both depression and addiction are either solely based in genetics or caused by environment. The authors believe that depression and addition are affected by interaction of biological, social and community factors over time.
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