American Anxiety

Adding to the list of things to be anxious about, apparently, Americans have more anxiety than other peoples. And this may be tied to the nation’s so-called meritocracy. Trickle-Down Distress: How America’s Broken Meritocracy Drives Our National Anxiety Epidemic.

So we’re more anxious than anything else—and also more anxious than anyone else, beating out all other nations in our race to the top of the nerve-racked list. According to a recent World Health Organization study, 31 percent of Americans are likely to suffer from an anxiety problem at some point during their lifetimes— compared to 25.3 percent of those in Colombia, and 24.6 percent in New Zealand, the countries that rank second and third. You’d think people in developing or unstable states—those preoccupied with concerns farther down on the Maslow Scale—would be more anxious than we are. Not so. “According to the 2002 World Mental Health Survey, people in developing-world countries such as Nigeria are up to five times less likely to show clinically significant anxiety levels than Americans, despite having more basic life-necessities to worry about,” writes Taylor Clark, author of Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool. “What’s more, when these less-anxious developing-world citizens emigrate to the United States, they tend to get just as anxious as Americans.

It probably has a lot to do with everything mentioned in that article. But also, it might be the constant screaming. This is a country that never stops screaming. From the moment you wake up, it’s news, screaming, ads, screaming, people, screaming. The packages scream BUY ME! The people scream YES! The news screams NOW! Someone is always screaming. No matter the feeling, how banal or best-kept-to-yourself it might be, someone is screaming about it. There’s no incident too small to not be screamed about. No imposition too tiny to not have a tantrum over. This entire country is written in ALL-CAPS. It’s just constant screaming. Can’t be good for the nerves. That’s all I’m saying.

It can’t be good for the nerves.

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