Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Shiny Happy People

From the NYT review of the enjoyable-sounding new book A Brief History of Anxiety:

the worship of reason and science, by encouraging the notion that human beings can control their environment, has created a terrible fault line in the modern psyche, although not all societies suffer equally. Mexicans have lots to worry about but don’t. The World Mental Health Survey, conducted in 2002, found that only 6.6 percent of Mexicans had ever experienced a major episode of anxiety or depression. Meanwhile, to their north, 28.8 percent of the American population has been afflicted with anxiety, the highest level in the world. Mexicans who move to the United States adapt, becoming more anxious.

As much as I hate the way this plays into the stereotype the simple, carefree Mexican - "We sing, we dance, we give thanks to La Virgen..." - but my unscientific opinion is that this is not wildly off the mark (even if you count me as Mexican). But I'm not convinced this means they're happier, just more fatalistic. Plus, half a millennium of being told by the Church that the Big Reward is coming in the next life has certainly had a narcotic effect.

One thing I have noticed over the last couple of years is an increasing number of newspaper and magazine stories about anxiety and depression, so I'm sure the number of Mexicans who think (or maybe a better word is realize) they're anxious and depressed will certainly start to rise, just as I was unaware that I suffered from Restless Leg Syndrome until I started watching American tv commercials again. See you at the Telethon.

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