Access to calorie-dense foods, medicine, and other comforts has made modern humans healthier than our prehistoric ancestors in many respects. However, the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease suggest that there are also drawbacks to modern living. Here, we address the question of whether the dramatic cultural changes that have occurred over the past century have inflated rates of postpartum depression, adding postpartum depression to the list of diseases of modern civilization. We review evidence from cross-cultural, epidemiological, and experimental studies documenting associations between postpartum depression and modern patterns of early weaning, diets deficient in essential fatty acids, low levels of physical activity, low levels of sun exposure, and isolation from kin support networks, all of which mark significant divergences from lifestyles believed to have been typical throughout human evolutionary history. This mismatch hypothesis of postpartum depression integrates research across diverse research areas and generates novel predictions.
Hahn-Holbrook, J., & Haselton, M. (2014). Is Postpartum Depression a Disease of Modern Civilization? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(6), 395–400. doi: 10.1177/0963721414547736
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This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Current Directions in Psychological Science, volume 23, issue 6, in 2014 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at DOI:10.1177/0963721414547736.