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I’ve been asking myself lately, what is a health disorder anyway? And is a drug always the right solution?

When nearly everyone has the same problem, it might be called society’s disorder. Prevalence of mental disorders in the US are 46% over a lifetime, 26% in any given year, and start at age 14-according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This means that half of us are likely to have a mental disorder at some time in our lives. And 23% of these are labeled as severe. This is a lot of disorder. A lot of healthcare use, a lot of drugs being prescribed, taken, some diverted, and some abused.

I’ll start with my favorite health disorder, depression, because I’ve had some personal experience with that one in the past. Lifetime prevalence of depression is about 16%. Women are more likely to be depressed than men, 70% more likely, again from the National Institute of Mental Health. This is a very large difference. The age it generally starts is about 30 years.

When I think about what has happened to a woman in the US by the time she is 30, and have to ask, is it any wonder so many women are depressed?

We can give depressed women antidepressant drugs. We can offer counselling, and suggest exercise. Can we give women equal pay, safe passage to work and school, protection from abusive spouses? Can we give hope? I think we can. I think we can address the many inequalities and causes of suffering actor Judy Dench so intelligently lays out in front of Daniel Craig in this moving video where she has him experiment with role reversal. The script is by Jane Goldman, a first for a 007 scene.

The gross overuse of drugs is one of the costs of healthcare that have gone out of control in the US. Our most misused drugs today are not halucinogens, they are pain killers. So I have to ask myself, what is it about our society that is so painful? And can we change it?

Please leave a comment to share your thoughts and join a discussion.

More on health statistics from: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/index.shtml