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For bummed-out people who can barely get through the day, here's a message of hope: You can always try a geographical cure and move to China.

People in China are the least depressed among 18 countries included in a World Health Organization report, CNN reports.

And according to the survey of 90,000 people on five continents, those who live in affluent nations – such as the United States – are the most likely to be melancholy.

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Researchers looked at nine criteria to determine depression rates. In high-income countries, 15 per cent of people had experienced an episode of clinical depression in their lifetime, compared with 11 per cent in lower-income countries.

France (21 per cent) and the United States (19 per cent) had the highest rates, while China (6.5 per cent) and Mexico (8 per cent) had the lowest.

High depression rates may be due to the stress of keeping up with the Joneses, notes Evelyn Bromet, lead author of the study and a professor of psychiatry and behavioural science at Stony Brook University, in Stony Brook, N.Y.

"You'd think that countries that are better off should have lower rates [of depression], but just because they have a high income doesn't mean there isn't a lot of stress in the environment," she told CNN.

Nevertheless, cultural norms strongly dictate how survey participants might view and discuss depression, says Timothy Classen, an assistant professor of economics at Loyola University Chicago who has studied the link between economics and suicide.

"There are significant disparities across countries in terms of the availability and social acceptance of mental-health care for depression," he told CCN, adding that Japan has a high suicide rate even though its depression rates in the study were much lower than those in the United States.

In Canada, non-immigrants report higher stress levels than immigrants, according to a 2010 study by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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And Canadians of Chinese descent seem to be doing best in the mood department: They report the lowest prevalence of psychological distress of all major ethnic groups.

Perhaps a dose of Confucianism is the best antidote for a deep funk.

What's your take on the affluence-depression link?

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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