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Author and journalist Johann Hari started taking antidepressants as a teenager, and for a time, the pills worked. Yet even when he upped his dosage again and again, the pain always returned. His research into the pervasive mental illness led him to understand that most cases of depression aren’t biological. Often, the cause lies in society’s influence on how people live. Hari shares his findings and the innovative approaches experts around the world are using to combat the growing problem.


Of the nine causes of depression and anxiety, only two are biological.

Journalist Johann Hari started taking antidepressants as a teenager to counter what doctors told him was a chemical imbalance in his brain. The drugs would work for a time, but then Hari would need higher doses to keep the pain at bay. He took medication for 13 years. Eventually, he started to question why, like himself, increasing numbers of people in the Western world were experiencing greater levels of depression and anxiety than ever before.

Researchers have uncovered nine different causes of depression and anxiety. Only two are biological: Genes can play a role, and some people undergo brain changes when they fall into depression that makes that darkness difficult to escape. “Imbalances in the way we live,” rather than chemical imbalances, influence the other seven causes of depression. For example, loneliness can trigger depression, as can a meaningless, dead-end job.

As society fails to meet people’s psychological needs, more people struggle with anxiety and depression.

Just as humans require food, water and shelter...

About the Speaker

Johann Hari is a journalist and author of Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope and Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.

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