Based on the results of a new study, psychologist Randolph Nesse has developed a hypothesis linking depression to the ability to discard unreachable goals, which, apparently, is an American specialty.
According to Dr. Nesse, a psychologist and researcher in evolutionary medicine at the University of Michigan, people suffering from low levels of depression will instinctively give up these goals and find ones that are less ambitious, preventing themselves from becoming even more depressed.
From The Economist:
Mild depressive symptoms can therefore be seen as a natural part of dealing with failure in young adulthood. They set in when a goal is identified as unreachable and lead to a decline in motivation. In this period of low motivation, energy is saved and new goals can be found. If this mechanism does not function properly, though, severe depression can be the consequence.
But doesn't depression, whatever the level, expend energy? When we're depressed, aren't we actively spinning our wheels, generating thoughts that make us depressed? Wouldn't the ability to pick oneself out of a low depression depend more on thinking rationally and quieting those thoughts? From there one could choose to continue to pursue or not pursue the unreasonable goal.
Either way, there is certainly a lesson here, especially for go go go America, which has the highest depression rate in the world (at least we're number 1, haters). Sometimes being overly persistent is unhealthy. "Persistence is part of the American way of life," says Dr. Nesse. "People here are often driven to pursue overly ambitious goals, which then can lead to depression."