Can We Prevent Depression?
Self-care strategies to use before depression gets the best of you
This is the first in a four-part series on preventing depression, a serious and growing mental disorder that can strike at any age and, if untreated, persist and worsen.
Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open — precipitated by “huge waves of anxiety” the 23-year-old feels over obligatory press events and the “long bouts of depression” she says she has dealt with since 2018 — highlights the reality of the shadowy world of depression, an increasingly common condition that can sneak up on any of us, at any age, for reasons obvious or mysterious.
Osaka’s decision to “exercise self-care,” as she put it, is wise beyond her years. And without pretending to understand her experience or suggest what she should do, I see her challenges as raising an important question that’s more relevant than ever before: Are there effective strategies to prevent the onset of depression?
The short answer: Absolutely, at least to some extent for most people.
The longer answer: Prevention strategies ranging from relatively simple self-care to professional therapy sessions can reduce, but not necessarily eliminate, the risk of developing depression. But the earlier in life we start working proactively to outrun the dark lord of depression, the better.
Clearly, as Osaka has helped the world realize, more and more of us could use some help.
- From 2005 to 2017, symptoms of major depression in the United States in kids ages 12 to 17 jumped from 8.7% to 13.2%.
- Nearly half of parents this spring said their teens have experienced worsening symptoms of depression or sadness during the pandemic.
- Adults with depression symptoms tripled from 8.5% before the pandemic to 27.8% in spring 2020.
- By spring 2021, 28% of U.S. adults still met the criteria for moderate to severe depression, including a whopping 42% of those ages 18 to 24.
You might be surprised to learn that people 65 and older were the least affected, with only 10% reporting moderate to severe depression in that most recent survey. This stark…