Materially and economically speaking…
Talk about problems with society today and someone will tell you that the poor today live better than kings of yesteryear, or even the rich in other countries.
They seem to stop talking or listening then.
This Forbes article’s headline, “Astonishing Numbers: America’s Poor Still Live Better Than Most Of The Rest Of Humanity,” is typical. The article looks at material wealth and GDP growth, stating:
The poor in the US are richer than around 70% of all the people extant. The poor in the US are about as poor, perhaps a bit richer, than the poor in other rich countries. It is true that there is more inequality in the US: but this isn’t because the poor are poorer. It’s because the rich are richer.
As for emotions…
How about Americans’ emotions?
From Harvard Medical Schoo’s “Astounding increase in antidepressant use by Americans“:
[Americans] are taking [Prozac] and other antidepressants (Celexa, Effexor, Paxil, Zoloft, to name just a few) in astounding numbers.
According to a report released yesterday by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the rate of antidepressant use in this country among teens and adults (people ages 12 and older) increased by almost 400% between 1988–1994 and 2005–2008.
From Scientific American:
Antidepressant use among Americans is skyrocketing. Adults in the U.S. consumed four times more antidepressants in the late 2000s than they did in the early 1990s. As the third most frequently taken medication in the U.S., researchers estimate that 8 to 10 percent of the population is taking an antidepressant.
From the New York Times:
Over the past two decades, the use of antidepressants has skyrocketed. One in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four.
Yet no antidepressant has been shown more effective than exercise, as far as I know (not that I’ve researched that much), which tells me that people live out of touch with what creates happiness and emotional reward.
Speaking of exercise, obesity rates keep rising:
The illustration above has to add new bins every few years as the obesity rates increase. The illustration below shows that the rates continue to rise.
Since genes don’t change in a few years, the illustrations above tell me that the growth is resulting from reversible behavioral changes. Maybe people prefer diets and behavior that lead to diseases of excess to fitness, but I suspect most obese people would prefer not to be obese.
You can’t have it both ways
The material, economic perspective appears to miss something important. While it’s possible people before antidepressants were as depressed as people today, or many other explanations, soaring antidepressant use implies a lot of depressed people, whether poor or not.
My read: Mainstream America is out of touch with what creates meaning and emotional reward.
Economic growth masks cultural and social problems, or maybe exacerbates them. They distract us from seeing, understanding, and developing the skills to create a life that creates a fit body and mind that doesn’t need antidepressants.
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