Alcoholism and Depression among Hungarians

The health of a population depends on the balance of its ecosystem. When an ecosystem is not balanced, consequences occur that puts strain on a population. This may cause the population to adapt in adjustment. Since human reproduction is affected by ecological factors, this has forced the human race to evolve in different ways. Some may call these way ‘races,’ although it is not biologically proven that races exist. Race was probably formed through “unique material circumstances” (Gravelee, 2009) that humans have endured through hundreds of years. It is hard to distinguish different races because even, say a white man from another white man, varies greatly. Human genetic variation is mostly clinal (Gravelee, 2009). A combination of ‘race’ (biological factors) and geographical placement will determine one’s health. Genes do play a role, but environment and diet place an even bigger one. For example, the government gave the Pima free but very unhealthy food during a period of starvation. This impoverished community led their group of people to have the highest rate of diabetes of any other. Who you speak to, how much stress you’re under, and how polluted your air is are other examples of non-genetic factors that can affect your health. Asian Americans in Richmond today are still struggling to control the tuberculosis outbreak because of the environment constrictions they are placed under. Due to social disparities, they cannot leave this town that has no access to healthy food and difficulty with retrieving water. Tasks like washing their clothes or going to the bathroom become very unsanitary. With their immune systems already down in such tight quarters, they cannot help but have slew of infected, contagious people.


Suicide rate HUNG BÁCS-
male 40.1 45.9 54.4 9.3 53.9 41.5      
female 10.7 15.4 16.5 13.3 15.2 9.1      
total 24.7 29.9 34.4 40.1 33.7 24.6 12.9 28.8 23.2

Table 1. The number of suicides per 100 000 by counties. Hungary vs. Romania. 2008 (Kalmár).


I know that I am a mix of French, German, and other things, but I am foremost Hungarian. As I explained earlier, this could questionably not be a race, but this group definitely has some prevalent health issues. Twenty five percent have an anxiety disorder (Fenyo, 1997). Having the highest rate of suicide in the world, Hungary’s major mental illnesses include major depression (56-87%), alcohol or drug related illness (26-55%), schizophrenia (6-13%), or personality disorders (Kalmár). Thus, they kill themselves in very grotesque ways. The alcoholism conflict also ties them to another higher-than-normal amount of people with liver sclerosis. We can see the difference in Hungary’s own neighboring country, Romania, in Table 1. These problems are mainly due to social factors. WWI caused a lot of trauma for Hungary, including losing a majority of its territory. This is when health issues arose. Post-war accelerated industrialization broke families up as people took different places in the wealth latter. Also, some Hungarians claim that their country is “caught in between two worlds, East and West, and feel that they are ‘too western’ for their geographical location” (Fenyo, 1997). Suicide can be looked at as a “desperate and heroic act” in some cultures, and perhaps that is why everyone and their brother are killing themselves in Hungary and anywhere else the Hungarians may immigrate. There are few studies on the subject so it is currently being looked into. It is difficult to find how Americans with strong Hungarian roots such as myself may be affected.


Fenyo, Krisztina. “Gloomy Sunday.” Phespirit, May 1997. <>

Gravelee, Charles C. “How Race Becomes Biology: Embodiment of Social Inequality.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 139:47–57, 2009.

Kalmár, Sándor. “Is Suicide a Hungarian Phenomenon?” Internet and Psychiatry. <>.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jenelle Dushane says:

    I like your explanation of health, genetics, and race. One thing I mentioned was how Gravlee described race as more of a cultural construct. Things such as how you are raise, your income level, and your political views. I felt this was important such as in the unnatural cause video about Becoming American it is believed that Recent Latino immigrants have better health than anyone else is in the United States. In the video it explains that their sense of family and community keep them healthier. This is because they help each other and discuss important matters. This sense of togetherness helps them remain less worried or stressed.
    I like that you chose Hungarians, because it is often not mentioned or looked at. This was similar to the Unnatural Cause video called Not Just a Paycheck. People at a factory lost their jobs and felt stressed and depressed and were driven to drink and other stressful illnesses.
    I feel like race is not always the best way to categorize people in clinical structures because it can lead to people blaming each other or not taking the illness seriously. Such as skin cancer, just because people with darker skin are less likely to get it does not mean they cannot get it. Like the case with Bob Marley, he did not know he had skin cancer and it went without treatment until it was too severe, like so many other cases with people of darker skin. I feel a better way to categorize people is more geographical, especially with illness such as skin cancer; people near the Ecuador or in sunnier places are more likely to get skin cancer than people with less sun. In your case, people near and in Hungary need to be aware of the after-effects of the war on their health.

  2. Hannah Porter says:

    I like your explanation of the relation between genetics, race, and health. I especially liked how you explained the importance of environmental and cultural factors and that there is no biological proof that races exist and they are probably formed from environmental factors rather than genetics; this was one thing I only briefly mentioned in my post. One thing I focused on in my post was how genetics play a role in our health. We inherit a lot from our parents from genes for diseases such as sickle cell or color blindness and even allergies.
    I think race categories can be useful in clinical studies because by observing trends of which races are more prone to certain diseases it can lead to research of possible causes. For example, by observing the living environment, culture, and other factors of a specific group of people who tend to contract a certain disease a researcher can see what they are exposed to, which could be the possible cause. The opposite could also be true. By observing a race that is less likely to suffer from a certain disease a cure or treatment option could be discovered. For example, I learned in a previous class that people of Asian heritage are less likely to be alcoholics. A study of this resulted in a possible method of treatment for alcoholism because there are two types of enzymes that breakdown ethanol, ADH and ADHL. ADH breaks down ethanol in to acetaldehyde, which is then broken-down by ADHL to acetate. The breakdown of acetaldehyde by ADHL is what leads to the “feel good” sensation but many people of the Asian ethnic group have an inactive form of ADHL, which leads to a build up of acetaldehyde, which can lead to the sickness you get from alcohol. This lead to the possible technique of altering an alcoholic’s ADHL to an inactive form so the individual would become sick when drinking alcohol long before the “feel good” sensation set in and drinking would no longer be enjoyable.

    • Hannah Porter says:

      Oh and I also do agree with the previous post by Jenelle that it may be better to categorize people by geographical or cultural aspects as there is no biological proof for races.

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