Anxiety and mental disorder


I was talking to a Chinese Banker last night and had an interesting discussion about the explosion of mental health problems in China caused, potentially, by rapid social and technological change mixed with urbanisation. This chimes with a comment made by a police chief constable in the UK who said to me recently that his force (in the north of England) was increasingly dealing with the fallout from mental health issues. Over in the US, according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, between 2% and 4% of Americans suffered from an anxiety disorder in 1980. A  1994 study raised this to 15% while a 2009 study raised this figure to 49.5%

And this just in from a regular reader (thanks as always!)

I would suggest ‘Secular Millenarianism’ as something to watch out for. As technology advances faster than we can understand it, the anxiety this generates will only increase. It seems to me that millenarianism has impacts for all the things on your provisional list*, and the media plays its part in provoking this ‘end is nigh’ perspective, which has already infested many of our secular institutions.

“Fear prophets, Adso, and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them.”
(Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose)

* This refers to the list of forces on my previous post below (26 September).

An Age of Anxiety

Some nice thoughts in Rohit Taiwar’s Fast Futurescape newsletter (issue 24) a few days ago. One thing that especially caught my attention was around austerity and anxiety:

“As government austerity measures set in across the more heavily indebted nations, a marked downward psychological shift will become increasingly apparent. The age of anxiety will evolve into a new grumpier era. The negative attitude shift will be fuelled by rising unemployment, withdrawal of social protections, reduction in public services and declining living standards amongst the previously comfortable middle classes. The impact will be felt in areas such as declining public trust, workplace behaviours and family dynamics.”

I agree with this, but where does this anxiety and anger ultimately go? Do people just get grumpy, buy a ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ mug/teatowel/poster and moan about how things were so much better in the olden days (i.e. pre-2000) or do things start to turn really nasty?

In my opinion the chance of the wheels falling off the global economy (certainly the US/European economy but in reality it’s probably all linked) has shifted from about 1 in 100 to 1 in 10. So what’s now safe? Where can you stash the cash?

Gold? Maybe, but it still feels like a bubble to me. Bonds? Nope, unless you are talking corporate bonds rather than country bonds. Real estate? Maybe if it’s very top end and a very long-term hold. Wine. No, another bubble at the top end. Art? Don’t ask me. Agricultural land? Quite possibly.

Of course, those sensible enough to have saved some cash over the past few years (i.e. those not partly responsible for creating the financial crisis by borrowing too much money) could be in serious trouble, either because the financial institution they thought was safe actually isn’t or because low interest rates and high inflation will wipe their savings out over the longer term.

So what to do? Ironically perhaps the solution is to spend it.

BTW, big shout out to Shane who correctly noticed that 1 in 13 US citizens are not in fact in jail. The correct figure is 1 in 130 (See ‘The drug war is just a waste’, latest issue of What’s Next).