Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Rise in Antidepressant Use and What it Means for Deviance

It is common sense that the mentally ill are, sociologically speaking, a broad group of people who have been, and continue to be in the eyes of some (if not many), considered deviant. What way do things seem to be heading in the future though? To only look at one angle of the issue, this study from Business Insider published last year claims that antidepressant use has increased in 25 countries. The paragraph below includes some of the key information included in that article (though for the sake of brevity, I do not mention all of those countries).

In a matter of four years, antidepressant use in Germany increased by 46%, reaching a rate of 50 per 1,000. During the same period, it increased by approximately 20% in Spain and Portugal, the former being 50 per 1,000 and the latter being 78 per 1,000. Use in Iceland was very high, as it was estimated that 106 per 1,000 used antidepressants. The United States was added to the analysis by the authors, and the results indicated that use in this country was even higher than Iceland, that is to say, antidepressant use there was the highest out of the 26 countries included. Eleven percent of Americans over 12 years of age use antidepressants, and 110 per 1,000 use them overall. Also high on the list was Australia, coming in at third place, which had 89 per 1,000 antidepressant users. Canada was fourth on the list, with a rate of 86 per 1,000. In fifth place was Denmark, which had 85 per 1,000.

While these increases in antidepressant use are fascinating, again, I wonder what the future holds in this regard. I refuse to make any predictions because I know God knows the future so much better than I do. Plus, as I mentioned, the highest use was in the United States at 110 per 1,000, and that is only about 10%, meaning that it is not significant. But if antidepressant use continues to increase, and if those who take this medication are considered mentally ill, and if antidepressant use reaches the point of being significant (say, 6/10), then antidepressant use becomes the norm, and therefore mental illness within this frame can no longer be considered deviant, that is, if deviance is defined as a departure from normal standards of social behavior (statistical rarity, in other words).

Believe me, I have no agenda with any of this - at least, I do not think that I do. I do not believe that such an increase will really happen. My point is that, under current conditions, mental illness (mainly depression/anxiety in this case) is made "substandard" in relation to popular thinking and behavior as well as a popular lack of medication use. However, if this "substandard" thinking/behavior becomes the standard through popularization - as can be inferred through antidepressant use - what shall the new means be by which it will be considered deviant, if not a lack of popularity?

* Thanks to Tami M. Bereska for inspiring to write about this through chapter one of Deviance, Conformity, and Social Control in Canada (4th edition).

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