Via a text message from Stephanie:
A 2020 Pew survey of over 10,000 Americans found that self-described liberals aged 18-29 were more likely than self-described conservatives of the same age to report suffering psychological problems over the last week. They were also more than twice as likely to say they’d ever been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Furthermore, those who were “very liberal” were more likely than those who were just “liberal” to report poor mental health. The group most likely to report poor mental health was young white liberal females, an alarming 56% of whom reported having received a mental illness diagnosis.
Crucially, controlling for worldview narrowed the gender gap considerably: liberal men were more likely to report poor mental health than conservative women. It would seem, then, that the mental health epidemic among girls and young women is associated with their tendency to have a more Left-liberal mindset than boys and young men — a difference that’s becoming more pronounced over time.
Initially I gave this post the title, “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder”. But given the actual content of the article that would have been a stretch. This is the critical thesis of the article:
An analysis of data from 86,138 adolescents found, in line with the Pew survey, that between 2005 and 2018 the self-reported mental health of liberals had deteriorated more than conservatives’, and that this deterioration was worst for girls. The researchers blamed this on “alienation within a growing conservative political climate”. However, the New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg debunked this explanation by pointing out that liberals’ mental health woes began while Obama was in power and as the Supreme Court voted to extend gay marriage rights — hardly a conservative political climate.
A more robust explanation lies in the difference in outlook between liberals and conservatives. Central to Leftism is equality, which is best justified by the idea that people’s fortunes and misfortunes are not their own doing, and therefore undeserved. As such, Leftism de-emphasizes the role of human agency in social outcomes, while overemphasizing the role of environmental circumstances. As the West has shifted culturally Leftward — due to most writers and artists leaning Left — the depiction of people as puppets of their environment has become dominant.
I found the article be very insightful and thought provoking. Perhaps a much more healthy was to reduce the political divide in our country is to encourage a change of mindset, of all people, not just those we are politically opposition with:
The solution to pathologization, then, lies not in politics but in psychology.
The polar opposite of pathologization is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Although referred to as therapy, it’s closer to a form of mental training. Based on the Ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism, it teaches a lesson the West has all but forgotten: that our feelings are not always valid, but often deluded and self-destructive. It trains people to overcome harmful emotions by reframing harmful thoughts into alternatives that are more agentic and soluble. So, “That made me angry” becomes “I reacted to that by getting angry.” And “Life sucks” becomes “I feel like life sucks right now.” Where pathologization places problems outside your control, CBT places them within your control. Where pathologization bundles many small issues into one giant insurmountable problem, CBT breaks down giant problems into small manageable pieces.
Direct opposition and yelling at each other doesn’t seem to be working. Let’s try something else.