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The Modern Plague: Depression and Anxiety

Updated: Feb 25



This is truely one of the few books on the subject that I actually enjoyed and was happy I read. "Lost Connections" is a book by Johann Hari that explores the causes of depression and anxiety and challenges the prevailing notion that they are simply caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Instead, the author argues that these conditions are often the result of broader societal and environmental factors, such as disconnection from meaningful work, other people, and nature.

The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, the author shares his personal story of depression and how it led him to question the conventional understanding of the condition. He then delves into the scientific research and historical context surrounding depression and anxiety, pointing out how they are often linked to wider societal issues.

In the second part of the book, the author presents a series of solutions that challenge the current approach to treating depression and anxiety. He suggests that the problem of disconnection can be addressed by reestablishing meaningful connections with other people, nature, and one's own sense of purpose.


According to the book, there are several societal issues that can contribute to depression and anxiety. These include:

  1. Disconnection from meaningful work: This refers to a feeling of detachment or disengagement from one's job or occupation. It occurs when individuals feel that their work lacks purpose, fails to utilize their skills and abilities, or does not align with their personal values and goals. When individuals do not feel that their work is making a meaningful contribution or having a positive impact, they may experience a loss of motivation and a sense of apathy, which can also contribute to depression. For example, imagine a highly skilled and creative graphic designer who is passionate about creating art and design that has a positive impact on people's lives. However, due to financial constraints, they are forced to take a job at a marketing agency where they are assigned to create advertisements for products they do not believe in. They may experience a disconnection from meaningful work and feel that their talents are being wasted on something that does not align with their values and goals. This can lead to feelings of sadness, apathy, and low mood, which can contribute to depression.

  2. Disconnection from other people: When people lack social connections and supportive relationships, they may feel isolated and disconnected, which can contribute to anxiety and depression. To overcome disconnection from other people, one solution is to prioritize building and maintaining social connections. This can involve joining social groups or clubs, volunteering in the community, or reaching out to friends and family for support. Additionally, seeking professional help, such as counseling or therapy, can help individuals develop strategies for building social connections and managing feelings of isolation or disconnection. It's important to remember that forming relationships takes time and effort, but the benefits of social connection can greatly improve mental health and well-being.

  3. Disconnection from nature: The author argues that humans have an innate need to connect with the natural world, and that disconnection from nature can contribute to a range of mental health issues. One solution is to make a conscious effort to spend more time outdoors and in natural settings. This can involve taking walks in nature, gardening, camping, or participating in outdoor recreational activities. Additionally, learning about the natural world and developing a greater appreciation for the beauty and complexity of nature can also help individuals feel more connected and engaged with the natural world. Finally, taking action to protect and preserve the natural environment can also help individuals feel a sense of purpose and connection with the natural world.

  4. Consumerism and materialism: The author suggests that the focus on material wealth and consumption in modern society can lead to feelings of emptiness and dissatisfaction. When individuals prioritize material possessions and wealth above all else, they may feel a constant sense of inadequacy and insecurity, as there is always a desire for more or better possessions. Additionally, when individuals focus on acquiring material possessions at the expense of other aspects of life, they may experience a sense of emptiness or lack of purpose, which can contribute to feelings of sadness and low mood. In this case, the solution is obvious: to focus on experiences and relationships rather than material possessions.

  5. Trauma and abuse: The author points out that traumatic experiences, such as abuse, neglect, or violence, can have a lasting impact on mental health and contribute to depression and anxiety.

  6. Lack of control and autonomy: When people feel that they have little control over their lives or that their autonomy is restricted, they may experience a sense of helplessness and hopelessness that can contribute to depression and anxiety. Imagine a person who works in a job where they have little control over their schedule, workload, or decision-making. They may feel trapped in their job, unable to make changes or pursue their own interests and passions. This can lead to a sense of disconnection from their own values and goals, as well as feelings of boredom, frustration, and low mood. One solution is to identify areas where one can exert control and agency in their life. This can involve setting goals and priorities that align with one's values and passions, as well as taking steps to pursue those goals. Additionally, practicing assertiveness and boundary-setting can help individuals advocate for their own needs and preferences, and establish healthy relationships and boundaries with others.


I enjoyed this book very much, not only because I believe it is a crucial topic, but also because, like the author, I refuse to believe that depression and anxiety are a fate you are born into and have no control over. The approach of attributing mental health issues to chemical imbalance in the brain and simply prescribing medication is lazy in my opinion. I do believe some mental illnesses require medication and that's perfectly fine as long as we first explore root causes in our life. This also gives people hope and control in their struggle with mental health issues.


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