In the weekly news digest Vesti Nedeli, Russian propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov has shed light on rampant mental health issues in Europe, citing NATO policy as the root cause:
“Anxiety and depression are becoming a typical psycho-emotional state for Europeans. According to Eurobarometer, almost half of EU citizens – 46% – have experienced issues of this kind over the last year. The healthcare statistics curve already took a steep ascent during the COVID pandemic, and with the war in Ukraine thrown into the mix, the situation has become unbearable. …
We know for sure it was NATO that pushed Europe into the ongoing war in Ukraine. The bloody coup in Kyiv in 2014, the death squads turning their heavy weapons against ethnically Russian Donbas – and there you have it, a war in which Europe is up to its neck. Well, except for sending its armies. In other regards, Europe is going through the same troubles and hardship, from an economic depression to a psychological one. As they used to say, there's no faith in tomorrow.
The truth is that the quality of life in Europe has deteriorated. Every next generation has it harder than the previous one. They have to save money on everything, counting every euro cent, giving up vacations, losing jobs...
Instead of fixing relations with Russia and joining efforts to become stronger, Europe is developing the 12th package of pointless sanctions in a row, exacerbating its own situation and literally swallowing antidepressants by the handful.
In the first two decades of the current century, Europe upped its consumption of antidepressants by 2.5 times, from 30 to 75 defined daily doses per 100 people a day. Today, the growth has accelerated. Marketing experts are unanimous: before 2030, the European antidepressant market will have grown by another 50% because depression is becoming a massive phenomenon. …
In fact, if they were looking to cure the root cause, what they should do is improve the international landscape. For now, they are moving in the opposite direction. That's what's making them depressed.”
Indeed, the consumption of antidepressants across the EU countries has shown steady growth in recent years, and the trend isn't likely to change anytime soon. However, this increase has to do primarily with the changing public attitude toward mental health and the growing number of people willing to try medication to help with their psychological issues. The same goes for the growing number of clinical depression cases: more people tend to seek psychiatric advice when faced with mental health problems.
In some countries, people are more open to taking antidepressants than in others: thus, in 2023, Iceland's per capita AD consumption was almost four times that of Italy. Admittedly, Russians aren’t big on this category of drugs – they are only one-half as popular as in Italy.
However, the most important consideration Kiselyov chose to conceal from his audience is that an increase in AD consumption doesn’t attest to deteriorating mental health – but quite the reverse. Iceland, the global leader in per capita AD consumption, ranks third in the World Happiness Report 2023. Finland and Denmark – the winner and the runner-up – also display a wide use of antidepressants (12th and 10th by AD consumption). Meanwhile, Russia, where the majority of the population prefers to push through psychological problems without prescription drugs, hasn't risen above the modest 70th spot out of 137. The only European country to lag behind is Bulgaria.
That said, Russia also displays a trend toward an increase in AD consumption. Forbes wrote in March 2022:
“The demand for antidepressants has spiked in Russia. From February 28 to March 6, their aggregate sales in pharmacies exceeded 525 million rubles [~$5.8 million], which is almost four times last year's indicator. Some pharmacies have even reported a shortage in anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants despite manufacturers claiming to maintain the level of supplies.”
In October 2022, TASS reported:
“The Russians spent 70% more on antidepressants from January to September 2022 than in the same period last year, netting at 5 billion rubles [~$55.4 million].”
Deutsche Welle links this surge with the beginning of the full-scale war. Meanwhile, none of the Western countries have shown similar drastic changes. Curiously, even Ukraine’s domestic antidepressant sales only grew by one-third after the war broke out.
The grim picture of Europeans counting every cent isn’t true to life either. In July 2023, Eurostat released data on household savings in the eurozone. During the pandemic, their level grew significantly, which can be explained by the decline in commerce. Subsequently, it reverted to earlier levels but increased again in late 2022, slightly exceeding the pre-pandemic levels. Moreover, household investment also surged, following a sharp decline during the pandemic. Consequently, one would assume the Europeans are doing reasonably well.
Another indicator that hints at the level of depression in the general population is the suicide rate. According to World Population Review, suicide rates in the EU range from 5.1 cases per 100,000 people in Greece to 26.1 cases in Lithuania. In between, there’s Italy (6.7), Spain (7.7), Germany (12.3), France (13.8), Finland (15.3 – and that’s the world's happiest nation!), and Latvia (20.1). Meanwhile, Russia’s own suicide rate stands at 25.1 cases per 100k. It looks like Kiselyov is looking for a mental health crisis in all the wrong places.