Americans, and indeed many people around the world are increasingly stressed. A recent gallup poll shows that stress, anger and negativity are on the rise, particularly in the United States. Does this surprise anyone?
While stress is of course nothing new, the level of anger is a very disturbing phenomenon. People aren’t just feeling frazzled…they’re feeling angry. What is causing this rise in stress levels and anger? Is it politics? Could it be modern technology? Perhaps the media is fueling this?
In my opinion, the answer is all three. There was a time when folks consumed their news by reading a newspaper or watching the evening news. Sure, there was bad news, but the big difference was that “back then,” one really could only vent about the news to their immediate family and friends — after all, can you imagine John Q. Public calling all of his friends to complain about the news after the 11pm broadcast? Hardly.
Today though, the internet and particularly social media, enables people to take to the web to rant and rave — throw 24 x 7 news into the mix and the combination is toxic. The problem with an endless “breaking news” cycle is that they need to fill the air time and this means sensationalizing everything — today, a story isn’t just a passing point of interest, because it needs to be built up into something more than it really is. Politics has of course given the news outlets endless opportunity for dramatizing and sensationalizing everything. Now, a politician smiles the wrong way and the news outlets turn it into controversy…mix in Facebook and Twitter and one has the recipe for toxic soup.
So, I personally think we’re stressed and more alarmingly, angry, because we’re being force-fed the ingredients to create the toxic soup.
Here are some salient snippets from the Gallup poll:
…WASHINGTON, D.C. — Even as their economy roared, more Americans were stressed, angry and worried last year than they have been at most points during the past decade. Asked about their feelings the previous day, the majority of Americans (55%) in 2018 said they had experienced stress during a lot of the day, nearly half (45%) said they felt worried a lot and more than one in five (22%) said they felt anger a lot…
Which Americans Are Most Stressed, Worried or Angry?
…Younger Americans between the ages of 15 and 49 are among the most stressed, worried and angry in the U.S. Roughly two in three of those younger than 50 said they experienced stress a lot, about half said they felt worried a lot and at least one in four or more felt anger a lot…
…The world took a negative turn in 2017, with global levels of stress, worry, sadness and pain hitting new highs. During a solid year of economic growth, the U.S. kept this negative trend going into 2018. Higher levels of stress, anger and worry nudged Americans’ overall Negative Experience Index to 35 — three points higher than any previous score to date…
Is it our own fault?
Quite frankly, to a degree it is. No one is forcing us to consume so much news. No one is making us obsess over politics. No one intimidates us into spending precious hours on Facebook or Twitter. And, no one coerces us into believing all the fake news that is being intentionally spread around cyberspace. So yeah, in short, I do think we’re all responsible for this increase in stress and anger. If folks stopped participating in this psychotic system of dysfunction, things would change.
What can we do?
Again, this is my opinion, but there are definitely things we can easily do to stop this madness. Here are just a few:
- Don’t consume so much news. If there is a major story, then of course we should know about it, but that really should mean major. Try subscribing to a reputable news alert service so you’ll know when there’s something you should be aware of.
- Leave CNN and the other 24 x 7 news channels off most of the time. Have a set time to watch them if you really must, but then that’s it…turn them off. Consider getting your news from newspapers or from your local evening news — reading the news is less stressful than listening to a talking head drone on and on and, local news programs tend to be less sensationalized.
- Let go of obsession with politics. Seriously, Americans are becoming all-consumed with politics and it’s just not good. Let it go. If all you can talk about is politics, something is wrong. Our political system has always been one of some division — that’s the way it works. It’s not an all-or-nothing game and politics is about compromise, so trust me when I say, no one party is to blame for the problems, just as no one party will fix them. This is just the way it is, so learn to relax and if you really want to make a change, rather than venting on the internet, contact your elected Representative and exercise your right to be active in government. More people are coming to the conclusion that its not politics per se that is the problem, but rather, its the way the news media hypes and over-sensationalizes it that is the real issue.
“Television news is now entertainment, and the stories are being written by the people that have a special interest in them.” – James Taylor
- Stay off social media. Yeah, this could be a tough one for some people, but really, social media is a very big part of the problem —chiefly, that people abuse it by stirring the pot with lies and festering discourse with fake news that is 99% fiction and maybe 1% fact…if that.
- Turn off the smartphones. Put down the tablet. Read a book. Read a magazine. Read the newspaper. I’m sorry, but if you’re constantly checking your smart devices outside of work, something is wrong.
“Beware the politically obsessed. They are often bright and interesting, but they have something missing in their natures; there is a hole, an empty place, and they use politics to fill it up. It leaves them somehow misshapen.” – Peggy Noonan
The frightening thing about stress and anger is that once it takes root, it’s very hard to get rid of. It’s like a weed that creeps in and kills the beautiful garden. Sadly, much of the causes of this stress and anger are self-inflicted. Sadder still is that most of us know this, but like addicts, continue down the same old path. So, how’s that working out for us?
Read the full Gallup 2019 Global Emotions Report.
Interact with the world’s emotions and see how countries compare.