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Williams College

Publication Date

Fall 2019

Program Name

China: Health, Environment, and Traditional Chinese Medicine


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), based in the philosophy-religions of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism, is more than a purely prescriptive medical system; it is a way of life focused primarily on the principles of prevention rather than the more reactionary direction that pharmacotherapy in the US has taken. Mental illness is expected to account for a quarter of China’s overall health burden by 2020, with depression affecting around 100 million people and nearly 30 percent of young Chinese adults. Conventional antidepressants have a delayed onset and unpredictable therapeutic efficacy in this condition, especially in mild to moderate cases of depression. In fact, diagnoses of minor or mild forms of depression are as prevalent as severe depression. Yet for mild to moderate forms of depression, there is no significant difference in patient response to allopathic treatments over placebo. The present study examines perspectives on TCM as a better alternative to conventional antidepressants for mild to moderate depressive disorders in light of recent research. Young adult perspectives on depression and limitations of the mental health field in China are discussed.


Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Asian Studies | Chinese Studies | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Mental and Social Health | Multicultural Psychology | Psychiatry and Psychology


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