Lifestyle and Emotional Well-Being, with Dr. Andrew Weil | Big Think Mentor

We’re seeing an unprecedented epidemic of
depression in our society. More people are being diagnosed with depression than ever,
including millions of children. The latest statistics I’ve seen are that more than one
in ten Americans is on prescribed antidepressant medication. One in four of us is on psychiatric
medication of one sort or another, again, including millions of children. And I would
just say, we really have no idea what these drugs do to developing brains, so we’re doing
a vast experiment with our nation’s children. There’s also a great rise in anxiety disorders,
which often overlap with depression, with insomnia. So by all indications, mental and
emotional health in our population is not good and is declining. When I ask people why
they think this is so, a common answer I get is that, “Well, look at the economy, look
at the state of the world.” But my parents grew up in the Great Depression, which makes
our economic troubles look pretty tame. And they also lived through World War II, which
is probably the most horrific human experience in history. And by all accounts American emotional
wellbeing was much better during those periods. So something’s happened. And I think it really
cries out for explanation. The conventional way of dealing with this
is all focused on correcting imbalances in brain biochemistry. This is the biomedical
model which sees all mind processes as being the results of brain biochemistry, and therefore
the only intervention that’s thought of is to use pharmaceutical drugs to change brain
chemistry. I think that model has proved very limited in its effectiveness. There’s a growing
body of evidence that the most commonly used antidepressant drugs, the SSRIs, work no better
than placebos in most cases of mild to moderate depression. So, I would say that model has
really failed us.

About the author


  1. more people need to wake up on this subject. pharmaceuticals do not cure anything, they only mask the problem

  2. I think the same, and on top of that I feel that creates a sad reality = I, as the individual, am not needed. I do not possess any abilities or fill any role that cannot be filled by another. Nothing depends on my participation in the matter, yet if I wish to participate I need to pick up the corporate rule book.

  3. I think the comparison itself is almost irrelevant as you cannot objectively compare the experience of one's life through out history. Ask anyone if they wish to live forever, and most people will answer 'no'. Living to become 80 but working 40 hours a week (that's the blessed Western Standard) till age 67 versus being free full of danger, neither say anything about how the individual experienced the duration of their life as they only know their individual perspective.

  4. 1:06 he says: "They lived through WW2 which is probably the most terrific human experience in History." Subtitles substitute terrific with horrific. Haha!

  5. I'm with Russ on this one. The scientific data shows that human beings are living longer, healthier lives than at any point in our existence as a species. When you're not bogged down with trying to survive from day to day, you have more time and energy to devote to existential questions. It's not that you're any more or less depressed than you would be otherwise. You just have the luxury of being able to slow down long enough to notice it.

  6. haha, ok, so we live longer! Yeah, we live longer, more depressed lives. That sounds like so much 'fun', doesn't it!? NOT!

  7. There are no objective comparisons you're right. We are not talking about the individual though. The 40 hour work week is an improvement. Working 80 plus hours till you died at 40 was typical throughout history and it still is to this day in many countries that don't enjoy the "blessed Western Standard.

  8. Hold on a second, I'm not YOUR moron? If I can't be that then can I be your MORON? If you let me be your MORON I'll let you be MY idiot and we can spend the rest of our lives together writing idiot moron things on idiot moron forums full of idiot morons. Doesn't that sound wonderful Zsazsa my Angel? My idiot? My love? Sincerely,Your Moron.

  9. I drew the comparison from the context of the video of the comparison of depression in current societies vs. in hunter gatherer societies, showing negative signs in an 'improved' society – but I guess I was on a different conversation then. I think I can agree with , just your point, just because individuals don't experience them as such doesn't mean the improvements are not taking place, and I do prefer my shortened work week and low risk of the black plague and whatnot 😉

  10. Thanks for inviting me to something I can't subscribe to…
    Good video, solid information, sadly cannot subscribe to big think mentor and will have to find answers elsewhere.

  11. I know there are a lot of negatives living here and now. It's easy to look around at all the violence, pollution, disease, rigged economies, poison food, corrupt governments, wars etc.. and think, "wow,we are totally screwed." I'm just more optimistic I suppose and I don't think it was any better in any other time . I look at these problems as obstacles that we will eventually overcome because people are generally smart and good and if given the chance will do the right thing.

  12. Indeed,, if you try and click the link in the end of this video you get "this video is not available in your country"

    As soon as a channel becomes big it becomes blinded by greed.
    If it does not become big as assumed and expected they blame it on piracy or some other excuse and try to make peoples lives miserable by suing them to get money that in fact they are not entitled to.

    Big Think·even censors valid comments.

    Another sign of evil.

    First useless ads and now this?!

  13. I have a "feeling" (hence, unsure) that what's changed with society now is the extent of corporation's power and the consumerist culture. As an essential requirement, highly artificial lifestyles became the norm – which is not quite attuned with nature and which was not questioned as effectively as possible because of how monetary rewards and gain become ultimately desirable.

  14. Cut out your lowest rib and do it yourself, mate… apparently Prince had it done so he could 'pleasure' himself… maybe you should do it too! Just a suggestion (!)

  15. Changing our environment the way we have may also have an effect on our continued evolution. Adopted babies on average score lower on intelligence tests. One argument is malnutrition early in life (for the baby or the mother), but I don't think this explains away the entire phenomenon. Another, is that traits associated with intelligence is sexually selected for in an environment where intelligence is far more valuable (first world countries).

  16. All the problems you list pale in comparison to third world problems. Our ancestors lived brutal and miserable existences. Many died in childhood from, what are now, trivial problems. The adults died before the age of 30,though they looked much older from the never ending struggle for survival. Even something as simple as a cavity could develop into an abscess thats a source of unrelenting agony, then results in death.

    Today we relax on our couches, have a drink, and leave comments on youtube.

  17. I agree with you a bit, yes true when you are not striving everyday to survive and live off the land you may not have time to worry about depression. It's because of all our commodities we have and more leisure time to yes slow down but not notice it as you said though to "manifest" it through media, maybe the internet, routine work, socialistic behaviors, etc, because we are not trying to survive per se we have more time to think, imagine, cry, believe, dream, question which leads to deppresion

  18. We have more time to talk, to lose, to win, to love, to rebel, to build, and to fall, to grow emotional feelings that could shatter. Maybe that could be a reason why depression is more common now then in say Papua New Guinea.

  19. 1 Is it possible in freeze sperm and egg cells and have them and have them incubate artificially after a deep space voyage.

    2 Its okay my grammar and conveyance of thoughts is horrible…

    3 Well besides many crazy ideas that would make great movies plot-lines, theirs still space exploration being done.

    4 We don't fully understand the universe in which we live in, so we don't know what is and isn't possible. You maybe be right though, i'll admit that.

  20. The only possible way to travel beyond our solar system that I can think of is to have planetary checkpoints which have about the same strength of gravity we're used too. But to do that we need to either discover to use/create wormholes, or find a way to travel in hyper speed. The problem is that both of those solutions require that we are able either a: to reach wormholes (that are invisible and probably very far away), b: experiment with distant space travel, and now I run out of letters derp

  21. Anti depressent is like adding gas to to a fuel tank with a hole in it yeah it will keep driving but the moment you stop filling the tank everything goes dead just like with medication fix the hole first before you pop more pills

  22. Hmm, yeah, relaxing on our couches that we've worked soul-destroying jobs to pay for. Drink that we've had to pay for. And use a computer made from raw materials that other people have slaved for. The modern world is so much better, with such huge wealth divides, the destruction on basic 'humanity' brought about by 'the rich versus the poor' system of Capitalism, etc, come on mate, life has always been tough, it's just more unequal now! It's just The Rich getting richer!!

  23. I'm grateful for the things I have, but possessions do not equate to happiness. Society is quickly disintegrating because consumerism is taking over. That is not healthy for anyone. Tribes people in the middle of rainforests are more happier with their lives than the average 'developed' world person is with their life. So what the hell is going wrong, if it isn't the obvious and blatant answer of our disconnection from nature and sense of survival??

  24. I don't like the use of the word 'natural' because everything is natural, we are just another 'natural' system of chemical reactions and physical interactions, which in turn causes other chemical reactions, we aren't defying nature, we are nature. But I do agree, it's not about nature though, its about human beings evolving to self benefit off a particular lifestyle, but today, we have built up a society with rigid edges not allowing this 'primitive' lifestyle we are so well adapted to.

  25. If you really believed that, why not move into the woods and live off the land? I don't see why happiness is the be-all end-all metric of success. Here in the first world we have deep knowledge about the universe, our biology, global cultures, etc. I would not trade a slightly stressed out life that lasts into my 80's, and is full of cars, movies, education, the internet, etc… For a short one steeped in ignorance in the woods.

  26. You don't see why happiness is the be all and end all of success?????? Seriously?? Is life not worth living just for happiness… or have we all got to have the 2 cars, immaculate children, a big house, a dog, a cat, a perfect wife/husband, 3 holidays a year, etc?? Jeez Christ, what a soulless person you are!!

  27. I dont value personal happiness over progress. It is anything but soulless. Im not talking about materialism. Here in the first world, we know our actual place in a 13.77 billion year old universe. I've sequenced my genes, discovered my roots and my living relatives spread across the globe. We have landed men on the moon, cured polio, and discovered deeper truth's about ourselves. All for the price of a little stress. If you don't experience stress, you are not contributing to human development.

  28. Hey, I'm not gonna lie, money is a great solver of problems, it trully is. I'm out of work and I could use a little bit of money myself, but if you want my advice (from one weird to another): find something you like to do. It could be anything (except, you know, killing and stealing or hurting other people- hehe)… and do it! Make a small short term achievable list, and keep crossing those items. Maybe you'll feel more acomplished everytime you check one of them… worked for me.

  29. I think people are more willing to talk about depression these days?? I am sure things like war and depression were very stressful and anxiety inducing, but people just didn't speak about it. Especially men.

  30. People are getting depressed cuz you're not in the north pole supervising the elves, leading to a decline in productivity and ultimately a broken hearted child on the dawn of December 25th..

  31. if you don't like it, simply don't use it. Feel free to move to the countryside, plant your own garden, walk to the nearby river to get your own water, and maybe possibly die from diarrhea.

  32. It's all a bi-product of having fairly unnatural lifestyles. I think it's very revealing to the true nature of Humans and real happiness that remote tribes that live in places like the Amazon have higher 'happiness' scores than people who live in cities in The West. We have to learn a lesson from that information!

  33. your point is all this technology is unhealthy for the brain? ok i get it. So what are you suggesting. what's the alternative to this? Do u think EVERYBODY wants to live like how people used to live 200 years ago. Some people enjoy the convenience of shopping, skyscraper, cars, … we took centuries to get here, and ur suggesting we go back? lol i'm sure without all these "convenient tech", you'd be complaining about the high cost of EVERYTHING.

  34. Food is the main culprit. Eliminate refined foods youll be okay. Even go into ketosis. This is the metabolic pathway of early humans. This is cure for these ailments.

  35. I would disagree that this is all due to food. I'm sure it plays a big role, but it's just one aspect of a whole range of problems. My mother eats fruit, vegetable and lean protein only, but hates her job and has depression, as opposed to my father, who eats crap and is overweight but has a more fulfilling career…

  36. Hey, no argument here. We could all use a bit more money, and going hungry is no joke (believe me, I know).
    But I have a question, do you wanna guitar? Or do you wanna make music?
    Cuz, this is what I'm talking about: stop "buying" stuff to make you happy. Instead "do" stuff that makes you happy. So, if you can't afford a guitar, play something similar (or cheaper) and "create" what you want.
    In my case: I couldn't afford a piano, so I downloaded a piano-app and learned a few tunes with google.

  37. sadly in order to be able to use the app, u need an iphone or android, which costs almost as much as an intermediate priced keyboard.

  38. you'd still need "money". However, you don't need to be a millionaire to be happy. but you'd still need to make like at least 50k/year. Afterall, how can u have time for hobbies when you can barely pay your rent. its just like maslow pyramid of needs.

  39. antidepressants are the only way to affect someone without working with them to get one has the patience to correct someones stories and hallucinations.drugs are a lazy way of affecting the patient without actually changing the seems the better lifestyle choices are often enough to get someone better.

  40. Mmmkay. I think perhaps the world, and the good doctor above included, demonizes anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs like SSRI's too much. There is this heavy emphasis on "natural" alternatives as being automatically better for one than non natural remedies, purely because they're natural. Let's remember that nature is a pretty harsh place to be when not "tamed", in our hunter gatherer lives we had contend with the likes dysentery, wild animals and parasites. It's not automatically better.

  41. While I think this guy is largely spot on and clearly expert at his field, I feel he downplays the recession and current world events by comparing them to the Great Depression and WWII, from an American point of view. We had more faith in our leaders during the depression, more transparency, and less head-crushing BS on a corporate and political level (it was there, just not as Orwellian). Likewise, we came in late in WWII and there was a sense of mastery to it. Now most of us just want out.

  42. when he said about these drugs having an effect on a developing brain i immediately thought of what i saw in the documentary "the war on kids" (about public schools being a model of prison systems).

    in that documentary it is shown that a pretty surprising amount of kids who have gone on killing sprees in their schools were on anti depressant medications.

    even if you want to overlook that part i would still recommend watching the documentary. its pretty insightful and shocking.

  43. "Some have criticized Weil for promoting unverified beliefs. Weil's rejection of some aspects of evidence-based medicine and promotion of alternative medicine practices that are not verifiably efficacious has been criticized by some mainstream physicians" Hmm

  44. Main cause of depression is our modern competitive life style. Most of us are struggling to do what we are not capable enough to do. We are force feeding our kids with the brainstorming and nerve breaking ideas of Euclid, Newton, Descartes, Einstein and many others on a daily basis and putting their abilities on test on a weekly or monthly basis. Why do you think every one of them should have a nerve system firm enough to withstand that torment for 24/7?

  45. Quality of food in the developed world has never been better than now and we are living longer. But the problem is actually our grid and voraciousness. We are enjoying the pleasure of eating these good foods so much that our body cannot cope with it in the long run.

  46. This guy is gifted and can realize we are not doing things as our ancestors did while they were living in the wild with animals. Also more importantly he realises nature as a well designed and creative system rather than a chaotic, chance dependent blind force.

  47. Perhaps they are getting depressed because they have to pay for every single thing.
    Like the new big think channel

    Will i have to pay for the air soon?

  48. I think it's also because people are more hostile and discontent than before. The gap between have and have not is wider, The traditional channels for prosperity are broken and withering, our health in general is declining, all these things lead to depression. It's hard not to when the news is full of sex and violence, your neighbors are angry and violent, all media is boring if it's not violent, and everyone feels trapped. We are a time bomb. About to explode on the haves. They have it coming.

  49. I'm not complaining at the high cost of everything!! If you actually read my comments, I actually said that an artificial environment that we have created for ourselves has backfired on our psychology and has lead to us losing or being confused about our 'purpose' in life. We still have our 'survival' instinct but we have nothing now to direct it towards. Hence the saying 'War is a drug'. War is the opposite of civilised peaceful society. It brings us as close as we can get to 'survival'

  50. uhhh no war is not a replacement for our survival instinct. It's just a result of innate greediness. Why do we go to war and have thousands of soldiers die? well because the people making the decisions don't die, and they get money from war. They don't really give a sh if the country goes in debt. no one will blame them for the war, except the president, and even if the econ goes down, they'd still be rich. how silly of you to drag war into "survival instinct". lmfao.

  51. Oh deary me, you completely missed the point of the 'war is a drug' quote. Politicians start wars. But soldiers fight them. Most people who join the Military are not forced to do so. They do it out of choice. Maybe you should check out films like 'The Hurt Locker' to get an idea of why some people who join the Army often develop a 'love/hate' relationship with their role. The Military puts people into fight or die situations.

  52. It's basically marketing that has created this artificial environment and artificial needs for us. I have worked in marketing and the kind of people who decide what music we are supposed to like, what we watch, what information we get, let me tell you, if you have a soul, they would make you sick to your stomach. This kind of people has run our lives since forever. Dictatorships, religions, marketing, same bullcrap. Get rid of the greedy soulless bastards and watch things improve.

  53. I agree. Our life 'attainments' have changed… for the worst. Bigger car, bigger house, etc… It's soulless!

  54. i was working nights in one of Dublins Psychotherapy hospitals and b4 that depresion was something absolutely foreign, an idea blew up by media.
    Only after i had a chance to chat a little with those ppl it turned out to be something very serious(unfortunately there is not enough space here to bring examples)
    But it`s still very silly to think that all of them prescriptions that are being given out are in fact for non-recreational use

  55. The epidemic of depression is because: when you treat depression with meds you prevent suicide and if people don't commit suicide when they are sad they will pass on genes with predisposition for depression

  56. Shit I think you just solved the whole depression epidemic.
    Maybe write in to Big Think and get a 20 second video reading that out?

  57. Its not a solution, im just saying what i think causes the problem. I myself have depression. the epidemic could also just be because we have more doctors to notice and the condition as time passes

  58. Arriving at the conclusion that people need to commit suicide if we ever want to eliminate depression is completely ignorant. I assure you letting people kill themselves will not solve the problem. I suggest you watch this video.. A more likely cause would be life style and diet. I'm sure on some level genes play a role but that isn't what should be a concern.

  59. Screw it. I'm pissed. My brother lives in the next room. I'm bothered because he just lately grew superb at obtaining females. The guy discovered the Master Attraction site (Google it) by Jake Ayres. All he's doing now is banging women. He's continually having chicks back. I hear it. It's gross. I wish he had not discovered that site. My best friend just signed up and got a blowjob a week later. I'm jealous!

  60. im am a 14 year old boy who has depression and insomnia and sleep apnea [im sure u spelled that wrong] and this is very interesting to see this andto think that there isnt something entirely wrong with me

  61. The difference between "the Depression" and now is the uncertainty that things could get even worse than the Depression was. We're also very dependent on technology in a way we weren't in the 1930s.

  62. That's because of for the most part postpardom depression, teenagers and elderly are still very common.
    beleive me I understand that a lot of people commit suicide after they give birth, My mother commited suicide(not sure if it was intentionl she was under the influence of drugs) when I was thirteen and she had depression, I also was told I have depression but only have had one brief month of it

  63. I'm currently suffering from depression, and it DOES run in my family. But if I have to suffer so that my mom doesn't lose her life I'll be depressed for the rest of my life.

  64. Everyone is different, but I truly believe antidepressants are like a bandaid on a deep gash. They will almost always trap those who use them, building a dependancy, or worse.
    Once you accept that unfortunate things have happened in your life, and hit an all time low to the point you feel like you have nothing to lose, you finally realize that the demons that have kept you down are in your head. Once you realize this you overcome depression quickly IMO. Just have to build yourself up again.

  65. welome to the teenage years. half the kids your age feel the same way. if you learn to brush off these common feelings and at least put them in the back of your mind (bc they will be there in the teenage years) and instead focus an work on yourself (school, hobbies, etc.) when you're in your 20's you'll be an unstoppable beast.

  66. If you're feeling down and you learn to focus all your sadness, hatred, & emotion on a hobby/skill/goal you will master that which you are doing faster and much better than others. Truth

  67. People are depressed because every jerkoff is on their phone texting all day or they are on Facebook, Twitter and other nonsense. The intimate human experience is slowly disappearing well, at least for millennials.

  68. Please, Americans dont even get how lucky they are. When you start moaning about your hard life, take a trip to poor countries… when you return home you'll be VERY happy

  69. He has alot of good information but no real answer to his own question. He says that just 50-100 years ago emotional well being was in a much better state yet fails to account for why it has changed over time and honestly give vague explanations, yet they are not wrong. I believe that the combination of globalisation and development of technology has created the change, so to actually do something about ones own emotional well being you should consider how technology and disengagement from people in your near space affect your life. When is the last time you haven't been on a computational device for just 1 week and engaged with people in your proximity?

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