What Really Makes the French Depressed?


Last Updated: December 9, 2021

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Much has been said about that certain mélancolie (depressed in French) common to the French, but let's take a look at the 9 other  highly probable reasons behind French depression. (Note: Take this list with a huge grain of salt!)

What Makes French Depressed

 The French are depressed. So says a lot of studies and articles and books and surveys. But before we dive into the nitty-gritty, here are some grim facts from a bunch of legit surveys:

  • The French are the world's most pessimistic people. (source)
  • Seven out of ten French people say they are suffering from a “collective depression”. That's a whopping 70%! (collective gasp!)
  • France is the biggest consumer of mood-altering drugs in Europe. 25% of the adult population are into one of these drugs -- antidepressants, tranquilizers, sleeping pills and anti psychotic drugs. Two-thirds of which are women. Approximately 200 million boxes of the said drugs are sold in France annually.  (source)
  • A World Health Organisation (WHO) report says French people are the most likely to suffer from a “major depressive episode” in their lifetimes (source) 

Such morose numbers and dismal data. All these despite the finest food in the world sitting on their plates, the 35-hour work week, awesome social benefits, great wine, long holidays, and a picturesque countryside. Mais pourquoi? Why oh why???

french depressed

Oh the gloom and doom! Henri le chat noir knows this  fathomless ennui and despair.

The experts have all pitched in and put their brainy heads together to come up with reasons behind the widespread unhappiness. Here's what they're saying:

  • It's the economy, silly. The unemployment rate is at the highest level for sixteen years.
  • They're suffering some sort of identity crisis in this new, highly globalized times.
  • The school system is partly to blame because of such an elitist grading system. The unreasonably high expectations and standards cause the kids' self-worth to plummet, making them undervalue themselves at an early age.
  • Nostalgia over the lost grandeur of the lost French empire and its former influence to the world.
  • Fears over the decline in the welfare state, education system, and healthcare system.
  • Too much taxes.
  • Resistance to globalization.
  • They’re lamenting the gradual loss of traditional French values.
  • An unreachable French ideal that most people believe they are not living up to.
  • “ A stubborn hierarchical social structures that breed distrust and envy,” according to political analyst Nicolas Tenzer. 

If all those reasons aren't enough to make you feel depressed, I'm not sure what will. Surely the experts are on to something. And of course, all the letters attached to their names see to it that you know  they know what they're talking about. But seriously, there has to be some other reasons to be depressed in French, right?

Here let's take a look at the other highly probable causes of the French depression. Well, in my own opinions, at least.

1 . They don't get a lot of good sack sessions anymore.

According to a study conducted in 2010, the French actually have pretty terrible sex lives (whoaa --- whaaatt?). 76% of the respondents claim to have relationship problems caused by sexual troubles, and a third of the women and one-sixth of the men say they use excuses such as headache and stress among others, to avoid sex.

That, for sure, is a helluva lot of reason to get depressed. Don't you think?? Anyone would be depressed.

2. The croissants are no longer authentic.

This is also another real reason to get depressed. Did you know that more than half of the croissants in France are now factory-made? The source of the sad news here.


Hey you, un-real little croissant, how you break my heart  

3 . There is a global wine shortage.

Another collective gasp! And what's worse, the Bordeaux region has been inundated with heavy rains, resulting to a 19% decrease in grape production!  (Update 2014: But the production is up again.)

4. Joie de vivre is overrated. Gloomy is fashionable.

Just as black is very becoming and never goes out of style, so does moroseness for the French. Hopefully the new campaign slogan for Morgan de Toi would do a little bit to alleviate all this well-tailored haute couture bleakness. Happy is the new chic. Maybe this trend would soon catch fire. Who knows? 


Happy is, like, really fun! You should try it! 

5. Extended post-holiday blues.

Considering that France is among the countries in the world with the highest number of paid vacation days, it could be possible that the country is suffering from major post-vacation depression (PHD). 

6. The French are artistic.

And you know what they say about artists – they're a depressed lot. It has been said by too many people that creative folks like authors, artists, poets, musicians, performers, and other artsy types are more plagued by sorrow and depression than the rest of the general population. So what do you think would become of a nation made up of a long history and generations of artists? Makes sense? To our befuddled minds, it does. Just take a look at this rather dour words by Van Gogh. 

"Sometimes moods of indescribable anguish, sometimes moments when the veil of time and fatality of circumstances seemed to be torn apart for an instant."

- Vincent Van Gogh

7. Everyone is ridiculously beautiful.

It could probably get exceedingly difficult to keep up and stay pretty all the damn freaking time.

8. Over-thinking.

Ignorance is bliss while thinking too much could only lead to depression. The French, however, have turned over-thinking into an art form. They call it joie de penser, or joy found in thinking that “derives pleasure from its displeasure”.  Too much philosophizing and existential musings can't be good for your happiness levels at all. Just ask the people on this list. 

9. Everyone is talking about how depressed the French are. 

Did anyone ever stop to think that all the headlines about depression and the BIG talks revolving on the French being innately depressed is turning out to be one big self-fulfilling prophecy? Keep talking about how depressed a group of people are and they're most likely to become just that. It's the Law of Attraction at play, people. 

So really. Maybe we should just stop talking about this altogether. Like, right now.

About the author 

Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Instagram

  • I am not French, but a Francophile.
    The French are not depressed to me,
    if the beautiful French Frank was mine and you wanted to replace it with ugly euro, I would have beed depressed too.
    If I were the member of Bell époque society, listening to musette on accordion passing a cafe in Paris and now you
    replace it with Radio Rap, I would be be depressed too.
    If I had a traditional French Restaurant at Trocadero and you wanted to replace it with Mc Donald, I would have beed depressed too.
    If my savor was Napoleon and now now is Holand, I would have been depressed too.
    Yet, I am still happy, for the beautiful streets of Paris, The Hausmann buildings, The Marronier,I am happy for the musical
    sound of the language, I am happy to see people,,vivant,, from all over the world, I am happy for Charles Aznavour,
    even for machine made croissants, …and no shortage of wine.
    I love France and the French.

  • Meme si cette image de la France est assez triste, elle me semble malheureusement bien vraie! J’aime beaucoup ce que vous faites et je le partage souvent avec mes eleves,
    Une francaise a l’étranger et heureuse de l’etre…

  • I’ve heard it said that if you’re happy, you’re overlooking something important (that means you’re stupid). Therefore, the French always look for what’s wrong. Unfortunately, you train your brain to be critical and miserable doing this. Smiling is likewise seen as vacuous and stupid…but the muscle movement actually
    sends messages to the brain that cheer you up.

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