Is It About Unemployment?
A recent survey revealed unprecedented levels of stress among college students in the US. Many commentators leaped to the conclusion that this reflected the uncertain job market. But do high levels of unemployment actually cause stress in students?
Taylor Clark commented on Slate that he finds that explanation implausible. Increases in stress levels is part of a long-term trend in the U.S.: "Over the last several decades, both through good economic times and bad, the United States has transformed into the planet's undisputed worry champion." According to his figures, 18% of the population suffers from anxiety disorders, while sales of anti-anxiety medications like Valium and Xanax are at record levels - and rising.
Author of Nerve, a new book on stress, Clark offered three different reasons that struck him as more plausible to account for the rise in stress: America's increasing loss of community (what he calls the Bowling Alonesyndrome); the overload of information we are subject to; and "our intolerant attitude toward negative feelings." (See, "It's Not the Job Market.")
I am sure that the state of our economy has to be among the contributing factors. Nothing adds to anxiety like uncertainty about paying our bills. But I think Clark has a point: being alone makes it worse. The popularity of social media and the superficial connections among us it has promoted adds to our stress, especially in an age when we have come to think that the internet is bringing us all closer together.