Busy days can breed depression

Kyle Roerink

Susan Roxburgh, associate professor in sociology, said she is tired of listening to people complain about how rushed their lives are.

She is in the process of proposing a grant in an effort to study the effects of depression resulting from time pressure.

Roxburgh would select participants to carry a beeper around with them as they go about their day-to-day schedules in order to gather information for the study.

“And when it beeps, they fill out a form, and they answer eight or nine questions about, at that moment, their experience of time,” she said.

After the contributor fills out his form, Roxburgh will tally the answers in two categories: engrossment or rushed. Engrossment refers to be fully concentrated on a task.

“I think that an absence of a particular experience of time called engrossment increases the time pressure that people feel,” Roxburgh said. “And time pressure is directly related to depression because it gives people a sense of not ever having completed anything. If you have an ever-increasing number of goals that you have to reach on any given day, you’re inevitably not going to reach them – that is a fundamentally dissatisfying experience.”

Bethany Schlotterer, a sophomore marketing major, said that when she gets overwhelmed with things she needs to do for school, she can’t do anything.

“It seems like there’s never enough time,” she said. “It’s like there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it. It makes me depressed because I can’t spend time with my friends.”

She said that she has a color coded calendar that corresponds with the folders she uses for class and the white board she uses for all events in her life.

“My ‘fun’ colors are never in my schedule,” she said. “My priorities take up all of my time.”

During a 10-year period, she said that four Time magazine covers highlighted the issue of time pressure and depression.

“I think there is a substantial evidence to suggest that there are changes in the way that work is organized that have increased the amount of time pressure that people feel,” Roxburgh said. ” …. There are changes in the way we use technology in our lives, and then there are probably sets of attitudes about parenting and sets of attitudes about success in life that can contribute to time pressure.”

She said that most people imagine that the point at which they will be the happiest is when they will have nothing to do. That attitude, Roxburgh said, is one of the consequences of society’s outlook on time. In the end, humans all need structure in our lives.

“I think if we understand why there is a link between time pressure and depression,” she said, “and we understand how different values … affect time pressure and depression, then obviously that tells people about what is problematic about American culture.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Kyle Roerink at [email protected].