There is no question that technological advancements have led to greater free time, more options in entertainment, and seemingly a greater overall quality of life. But health records showing one surprising area has been increasing steadily as well, as it is not good news for Americans: stress. Slate reports in “It’s Not the Job Market” that the National Institute of Mental Health has found that Americans have the highest level of anxiety disorders in the world.
At first, findings of high stress levels were blamed on college students stressing over the weak job market, but further research reveals that the additional anxiety applies to all ages. Even by the time someone reaches high school, their anxiety can reach levels requiring medication or other treatment. And despite the fact that American is the proverbial “melting pot” of immigrants of different ethnicities, anxiety appears to apply across culture lines as well. Even recent immigrants who did not grow up with such high anxiety levels tend to acquire it once in America.
Psychologists and neuroscientists who were asked about this phenomenon offered some insight into this baffling problem. Surprisingly, though technology has made our lives safer in many ways, it also appears to be part of the problem: social media and technological entertainment like televisions and iPads lead to reduced in-person interaction. This explains why other cultures, which focus on family and community rather than technology, have lower levels of stress.
Another factor is the tendency of media to sensationalize stories and focus on negative news; it is easy to be more anxious and stressed when all a person sees are the bad things happening in the world. Though these factors show some of the reasons why stress and anxiety have skyrocketed in recent years, there is no clear answer in sight. It may be difficult to establish healthier habits in an environment in which stressors are pervasive, but given the negative health effects, it is worth the effort.