Major depressive disorder (MDD), also known as clinical or unipolar depression, is one of the most common mental health disorders among people ages 15 to 44. Depression is also one of the most debilitating disorders worldwide, and one out of five people with depression will attempt suicide. While depression is a treatable condition, understanding the environmental factors of depression gives us a clearer insight into the many symptoms and causes of the disorder. If you or a loved one has MDD, keep reading to learn about common environmental stressors for depression to look out for.
Top 7 Depression Environmental Factors
There is a genetic component to depression, but there’s no single gene that can determine whether someone will or will not develop the disorder. While genetics refers to the person’s biological makeup, environmental factors of depression refer to how the person’s surroundings, upbringing, family, and friends have contributed to their depression.
Environmental factors are more likely to trigger depression in people with a genetic disposition for this disorder. However, even those who do not have a family history of MDD can develop symptoms solely based on environmental factors.
Noise pollution is defined as the regular exposure to elevated sound levels that can lead to adverse side effects. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sound levels less than 70 decibels (dB) are not damaging to humans or other living organisms, regardless of how long or frequent the exposure is.
People can hear dB levels starting from 0 dB and 12 to 140 dB is the sound threshold of pain. 70 dB is in the middle of this range and is equivalent to the sound of a regular washing machine or the noise level in an office environment or inside a car that’s going 60 miles per hour.
But aside from damaging your hearing, how does noise pollution cause depression? According to research, noise pollution has led to increased anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Considering the pain caused by low noises and the stress of loud environments on the heart and mind, this makes sense.
Synthetic Chemicals From Foods
We are constantly exposed to synthetic chemicals in the form of food additives, dyes, preservatives, pesticides, hormones, drugs, and industrial byproducts. Air and water pollution has been shown to cause cancer and birth defects, as well as other life-threatening diseases. It’s also believed that certain environmental factors and depression are linked, the former of which includes “sick building syndrome.”
This condition is usually caused by exposure to various noxious agents in a "sick building," which refers to an office or other building that houses many people who physically work closely together. Individuals with sick building syndrome tend to become very anxious and irritable. They’re also more likely to hyperventilate and develop tetany (muscle twitches and cramps) and/or severe shortness of breath.
Natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, tornados, and tsunamis are also common environmental factors of depression. Many people lose their loved ones, pets, homes, possessions, comfort, and peace of mind as a result of natural disasters. Accidents and injuries are also common. All of these can have devastating effects on one’s mental health and contribute to disorders like depression.
Childhood trauma is arguably a leading cause of depression and can contribute to more than just MDD. Trauma in the form of physical, sexual, and verbal abuse, as well as exposure to combat, near-death experiences, witnessing a death, or being diagnosed with a chronic disease or illness, can all lead to depressive symptoms.
The misuse of drugs like prescription medications and illicit substances has also been known to contribute to mental illness, mainly because drugs like opioids and stimulants interfere with the chemical balance in the brain. Generally speaking, depression is caused by the imbalance of chemicals like serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
When people abuse drugs that affect the levels of these chemicals – such as heroin, cocaine, and meth – the brain may eventually struggle to produce them on its own. As a result, the person may experience depression when they aren’t high.
Chronic Illness and Injuries
As we mentioned before, being diagnosed with a chronic illness or disease like cancer can be traumatic and emotionally challenging to cope with. It’s common for people who have been diagnosed with chronic diseases, have lost limbs, or have been injured to the point of losing their careers, schooling, or ability to move on their own to experience depression.
Among the many environmental causes of depression, grief is at the top of the list. The loss of a loved one is a common source of grief, but it may also occur as a result of a major life change. Many people are wrongly diagnosed during the bereavement process after the death of a loved one, but this can be dangerous for many reasons.
However, while bereavement is not linear, continuing to experience it long after the person’s death is a possible sign of depression. Experiencing sadness or low moods when birthdays and holidays hit is normal, but feeling this way most of the time could indicate a more serious problem. For these reasons, grief can lead to depression in extreme cases.
Depression Treatment in Florida
Attending talk therapy and support groups can be effective ways to prevent depression triggers. Strengthening positive relationships and building a strong support system at home are also great ways to manage depression and healthily manage triggers.
For those who have yet to receive mental health care for their disorder, our Pompano Beach treatment center is here to help. Banyan offers depression treatment in South Florida that incorporates individual counseling, group therapy, psychotherapy, and more to help clients understand the contributing factors of their disorders and how to safely and effectively manage their symptoms.
Depression, in severe cases, can lead to heartbreaking consequences like suicide. If you or a loved one has MDD or any other mental health disorder, please do not hesitate to reach out to our facility.
- ADAA – Understanding Anxiety & Depression
- CDC – What Noises Cause Hearing Loss?
- Brain Facts - Noise Pollution Isn’t Just Annoying — It’s Bad for Your Health