This book is a confronting and compelling challenge of the Western medical approach to depression.

Instead of considering this illness to be a consequence of a ‘brain malfunction’ or a chemical imbalance – Johann Hari presents us with an alternative perspective. One that sees depression as ‘a normal reaction to a sick society’ – a society which disconnects us from our values, our families, our communities and nature. And it is the loss of these connections that he proposes to be the real cause of depression.

Johann Hari is an award winning investigative journalist who has put his personal and professional experience to good use in this best selling book.

He exposes ‘a systematic misinformation’ campaign to promote the use of anti-depressants. And takes us along on a journey of exploration – both inner and outer – to build the case for a more holistic and compassionate approach to depression, which could not be more timely.


I think it would be fair to say that I didn’t only find this book interesting….I found it shocking – and quite frankly depressing to learn, that as a doctor for the past 20 years – I may not have understood – or indeed been taught about depression in a truly evidence based way.

I had to question – if I was only looking at what was presented to me in medical journals, without truly understanding the influence of the pharmaceutical industry behind them – how was I ever going to understand the context of this information?

And if this book taught me anything, it is the importance of context.

Depression relates within the context of our lives.

So, instead of prescribing pills to ‘block the neurotransmitters in the brain that allow us to feel’ – which is what I have been trained to do, I think we, as doctors and society as a whole – need to radically re-think what we can do – to support and empower people in their lives, so they do not have to feel that level of distress and despair in the first place.


As I mentioned above, I was shocked at the assertions in this book, and these points about the lack of evidence to support the way we use them really stood out. (Please note, that in this review I am presenting the facts as stated in the book. I have not cross referenced this information myself).


  • The evidence for anti-depressant use is highly contested.
  • The benefit from anti-depressants is less than the benefit from better sleep.
  • Most people (60-85%) who take anti-depressants – remain depressed.
  • The drug regulators (the MHRA) in the UK are 100% funded by the pharmaceutical industry which clearly presents a conflict of interest
  • To allow a drug to go to market the drug company needs to demonstrate an improvement in one area, in one study. So even if 99 out of 100 studies do not show an improvement – the drug can still be licensed.
  • Doctors are generally unaware of the unsuccessful studies (because of publication bias) unless they apply for FOI requests – which rarely happens.
  • And many studies that are presented in medical journals tend to focus on the impact of pharmaceutical rather than non pharmaceutical interventions which biases the recommendations that are then made.

With that in mind we need an alternative!

Johann Hari goes on to outline what he describes to be the disconnections – the things that when we lose touch with – we become depressed.

And then he goes on to outline the reconnections – ‘the unexpected solutions’ – the things we need in our lives in order for us all to be healthy and fulfilled – which what we all ultimately want in life.

I found all the evidence in this book, and the interviews with experts from all over the world to speak to absolutely fascinating. And would really recommend anyone interested in the subject of depression to give this book a read.

For a link to purchase this book or learn more about Johann Hari click HERE

A link to his TED talk is HERE

Or to listen to a conversation he has had with Dr Rangan Chatterjee click HERE


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