October 19, 2012
to be posted on nobabies.net

Hans-Ulrich Wittchen
Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
Techniche Universität

Dear Dr. Wittchen:
I read with interest your statement (The Burden of Mood Disorders SCIENCE vol. 338, no. 6103 October 5, 2012 page 15 with interest.)  Actually depression has never been much of a topic for me.  I seem to be immune.  I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have been unhappy enough to wake up early.  It has never happened two times in a row.  And if anybody close to me gets unhappy my feeling is, “Just get in touch with me.  If I can’t cheer you up, fine, but you have to let me try.”  Of course I may well be the one who depresses people around me.

But depression does touch on a subject I consider my life’s work; that is infertility.  You know, as I do not, what is actually going on.  But reading between the lines of the data I do have Eastern Europe is like this: there are cities which are the same everywhere.  They never produce enough babies to survive but rely on recruitment.  But they do provide some diversions.  In the villages it is less pleasant.  There are almost no children.  The young women move to the cities where they can make a living with their looks.  The young men drink.  The old people commit suicide. 

And I simply blame it all on the fact that there are no children.  If having children prevented depression I’m sure we would have known.  But this is different.  It is a matter of the entire community not having enough children. 

I tend to divide problems into two kinds: those that can be cured with money and those that can be cured with brute force.  Anything else is not a problem – it’s just the way things are.  In this case my easy formulation does not work.  You cannot make children just by throwing money at the situation, else all the rich countries would have ample children.  In fact none have enough to survive. 

So all rich countries, and conspicuously Eastern Europe, live on death row.  I suppose that waking up on death row for no apparent reason and through no fault of ones own would depress even me.  So there is a question of fact here.  Does depression in fact correlate inversely with the number of children in society?  If so, you need to add that to your assessment of what to do about rising depression.  Maybe we need to get those babies back not only for the sake of decades yet to come but for the sake of those alive now. 

Oh.  You ask how to get babies if people do not choose to have them?  Choice is a ticklish matter.  It has been well established that in things like politics and investments people are far from rational.  It is hard to think we are more rational in choosing things related to sex and children. 

In fact the number of children correlates with consanguinity.  Here are some references:

On the Regulation of Populations of Mammals, Birds, Fish and Insects, Richard M. Sibly, Daniel Barker, Michael C. Denham, Jim Hope and Mark Pagel SCIENCE vol. 309 July 22, 2005 page 609

An Association between Kinship and Fertility of Human Couples Agnar Helgason et al. SCIENCE vol. 329 no. 5864 February 8, 2008 page 813 – 816

Human Fertility Increases with marital radius. Rodrigo Labourian and Antonio Amorim.  GENETICS volume 178 January 2008 page 603

Comment on “An Association Between the Kinship and Fertility of Human Couples,” Rodrigo Labouriau and António Amorim SCIENCE vol. 322, page 1634b December 12, 2008

If you are interested I can explain why evolution has forced this unhappy state of affairs on us.  I can show you the effect in history.  I can show you computer simulations.  This is not new territory.  We have been here any number of times.  We have never escaped.  But we could escape … I think … maybe.  It may be too late.  But we are certain not to escape if we never try. 

Let me know what you think about this.


M. Linton Herbert MD 

There have been 69,604 visitors so far. 

Home page.