Our Age of Anxiety

The Wall St. Journal this past week featured a front page story entitled, “The Booming Business of American Anxiety.” The issue of New York Magazine two weeks ago touched on the same subject with the cover story, “Trauma: America’s Favorite Diagnosis.”

Just this week, CNBC released a survey that reveals that confidence in the future of business conditions by small business owners is at an all-time low.

Statistics suggest that American society is coming apart, both mentally and physically. Our life expectancy has been declining for the past few years — the pandemic had a lot to do with that —  but the opioid crisis, gun violence, and alcohol abuse also are factors playing a huge role in our collective demise.

More Americans than ever between the ages of 35-50 report that they are binge-drinking and more Americans over the age of 65, especially women, are succumbing to premature deaths from alcohol.

In addition, 40 percent of Americans are considered obese and another 32 percent are overweight — which means that almost 3/4 of Americans have lifestyles that will lead to a future of diseases (diabetes, cancer, etc.) and physical limitations that will create a lifetime of anxiety and depression.

Our unhealthy food — i.e., high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar — is addictive, no less so than opioids.  Just as the Sacklers gave us Oxycontin, the fast-food industry has given us triple-bacon-cheeseburgers with fries and super-size soft drinks — the more we eat, the more we crave them.

It is not a coincidence that the average American male today weighs 30 pounds more than the average male in 1960 and the average female today weighs the same as that man in 1960 — and in those same 60 years, the number of fast food franchises has grown exponentially. (In 1960, there were about 400 McDonald’s and Burger King franchises in the U.S. and today there are about 20,000).

When you add in all of the “big picture” challenges presented by climate change, economic inequality, the conflicts with Russia and China, and the elimination of individual rights by a reactionary Supreme Court, it is not surprising that Americans are feeling more anxious than ever before.

It is not an exaggeration to say that anxiety is our new national disease — and there is no cure in sight.

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