There has been a lot of talk about Eastern vs Western worldview differences, and I was curious as to whether mental illness had a lower frequency in the East. My hypothesis was that people whose worldview involved meditation and introspection as opposed to a worldview almost entirely based on external things would make a significant difference.
There are two immediate problems. Due to the worldview differences, the documented cases of mental illness in the East is probably significantly lower than the actual cases. The other major problem is that these worldviews are not very separate anymore. Any study in today’s globalized world would be tainted, since there are very few people who have exclusively one or the other view.
So I started web researching to see what would come up. It seems as if a study such as this may not have ever been done, but there has been lots of social studies to see how conceptions of mental illness are difference. So I altered my search to see if meditation in particular had been studied in relation to mental illness. This proved challenging as well, in that many non-scientific sites came up as personal testimony from someone that claimed to have cured an illness/mental illness through meditation.
There were far too many sites for me to try to sort through if any had what I was looking for considering this is just a random passing question I had. So briefly let’s look at some causes and see if these causes are less likely to occur in someone with an introspective worldview.
Cause 1: Neurotransmitter imbalance. I don’t really want to comment on this one without scientific support, but I am sure that there are scientific studies of people seriously altering their brain chemistry. Now if they had any control over neurotransmitters is another question. It doesn’t seem too unreasonable that meditation could help prevent this.
Cause 2: Heredity. Now according to webmd.com it is pretty random whether or not you inherit a mental illness, and it usually takes high stress, abuse, or trauma to trigger it. This seems to suggest to me that it is not genetic (though they claim it is), and that it is more of a mimic syndrome. You see someone in your family with a mental illness your whole life, then something traumatic happens and you develop those same symptoms. If this is the case, then meditation can definitely help empower someone to overcome the sense that you must develop these symptoms.
Cause 3: Infections/Brain injury. There doesn’t seem to be much you can do about an actually physical accident that occurs. There are without a doubt people who claim to have healed themselves through meditation, but this is far less common and also we are looking at prevention not healing. So can meditation help prevent an accident from occurring, probably not.
Cause 4: Poor nutrition/toxins. I do have to say that this is where Eastern culture and not just meditation can probably help. Many Eastern cultures such as Buddhism, Taoism, etc advocate a vegetarian or semi-vegetarian all-natural diet. The West seems obsessed with highly processed food and also animal products that have been produced in mass quantity. This mass quantity usually means that chemicals were used to enhance the amount. So I’d say the Eastern vs Western can be a prevention here, but meditation alone probably won’t do much.
I’ll keep digging randomly to see what I turn up and maybe post on this topic again in a week or two if I find anything new. Note: this is not a scientific or documented study. It was all opinion. No information here should be used as if it were fact.