Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Are We So Anxious?

In 1983, Time Magazine declared that stress was the number one American health problem. Stress contributes to heart disease, strokes, and diabetes and many other maladies.  The nation now spends $300 billion dollars per year because of anxiety, and 18% of Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. See here. A report last year by the American Psychological Association makes clear that the majority of Americans are stressed and cope with it in counterproductive ways.

Some might think that the economy is the most significant factor in the nation's stress, but a new book by Taylor Clark argues otherwise. According to Clark, our anxiety is caused by our lack of community. Given our mobility and our attachment to technology, our human relationships have become more frail. As Clark observes, when crises comes, we need to turn to close flesh and blood friends, not facebook friends.

Second, Clark argues that the glut of information in the mass media overloads are brains and contributes to a culture of fear - fear that X will cause cancer; fear of crime etc.

Finally, Clark points out that repressing our anxiety (or resorting to alcohol or shopping sprees to cope) only intensifies the problem. Our attitude toward negative emotions is almost precisely designed not to effectively cope with them.

Clark argues (I do not agree) that we live in a society where anxiety is less warranted than before. We certainly can expect on average longer life spans. Yet the USA is the anxiety center of the world. For starters, we might turn off the computer and the television more often and we might stop "Bowling Alone."


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