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Creating an Age of Depression: The Social Construction and Consequences of the Major Depression Diagnosis

Allan Horwitz

Society and Mental Health
March 2011
One type of study in the sociology of mental health examines how social and cultural factors influence the creation and consequences of psychiatric diagnoses. Most studies of this kind focus on how diagnoses emerge from struggles among advocacy organizations, economic and political interest groups, and professionals. In contrast, intraprofessional dynamics rather than external pressures generated perhaps the major transformation resulting from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, third edition, diagnostic revolution in 1980—the rise of Major Depressive Disorder as the central diagnosis of the psychiatric profession. Other interests, including the drug industry and advocacy groups, capitalized on the features of this diagnosis only after its promulgation. The social construction of depression illustrates how social and cultural processes can have fundamental influences over diagnostic processes even in the absence of struggles among forces external to the mental health professions. It also indicates how diagnoses themselves can have major professional, economic, political, and social consequences.

Allan Horwitz. 2011. "Creating an Age of Depression: The Social Construction and Consequences of the Major Depression Diagnosis." Society and Mental Health, 1(1): 41-54.



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