It’s added up to a lot of work. You know, like working nights. Working weekends. Working like a dog. Working like, well, an American.
Now, we already know that the United States economy wreaks havoc on our environmental well-being, contributing some 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. But it turns out that working in that same economy may also wreak havoc on our emotional well-being. Working like an American, some research implies, may be — literally — depressing.
I asked a psychiatrist friend if the fact that the United States sports the world’s highest rate of depression (not to mention, by the way, obsessive-compulsive or panic disorders, which together affect another 18 percent of Americans) is related to problems with our individual brain chemistries or problems with our way of life. My friend said that individual brains — like mine, for example — may have a biological tendency towards anxiety and depression. But this tendency can be triggered by the stresses a culture foists on its members.
… Our economy and our culture doesn’t cater to lifestyle choice. Here in the United States, our policies are not about making sure we can take care of ourselves in any other way than financially. In some ways, I wonder if that puts us in the ludicrous position of having to take a pill — like Prozac — in order to tolerate the way we live.