Sometimes journalism makes a social scientist scratch his head. (For instance, it seemed to take ages for the press to report that economic inequality in the U.S. has been great and growing since the 1970s – and has not been balanced by equal opportunity, which has been weak and waning. More on this next week.) This post is about another, smaller puzzle: The New York Times’s obsession with “anxiety.”
“Anxiety” is the name of a regular Times’s online blog, which makes a frequent appearance in print. Postings include memoirs, musings, works of fiction, and art – all about the anguish of anxiety. It is true that “anxiety disorders” are, according to NIMH, the most common “mental disorders” in the United States. But one could imagine an occasional nod to, say, the more destructive category of “mood disorders.”
Maybe the Times’s editors think that we are now living in an “age of anxiety.” However, wise observers have been declaring “ages of anxiety” for at least 65 years, perhaps many more.