Category Archives: Social Issues

Epidemic of Despair  


When Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who besides being a physician is also a periodic commentator on CNN  first started looking at the deaths in the white middle class that included deaths by opioid overdose, suicide, cirrhosis of the liver, it felt a bit mysterious. He was struck by the numbers but did not really understand the causes. It took some time for him to piece things together.


He found an interesting article with an interesting title. This was “The Epidemic of Despair Among White Americans: Trends in the Leading Causes of Premature Death, 1999-2015” published by Elizabeth Stein, MD. MS, Keith P Gennuso, PhD, […] and Patrick Remington, MD MPH in the medical journal American Journal of Public Health. An epidemic of despair? That is very strong language? Is it justified? Gupta wanted to know. So did I.

Dr. Gupta wanted to know, ‘what causes those deaths of despair?’ That is an important question. He was not satisfied with the medical causes of death. He wanted to know ‘the cause of the cause.’ He, like me, thought that was a much more significant question. But this one is harder to tackle.

Why are people taking so many opioids?  Why are they becoming addicted? Part of it is overprescribing for which physicians are responsible. Why are so many people drinking to excess? Why are so many people dying of suicide. Is there a common cause of the cause?

As Neurosurgery Resident Kumar Vasudevan put it, “We are living in a time in which we are very, very good at treating diseases, we are less good and less proficient at understanding health.”  I would add, that many of us are reluctant to look at social causes, and, believe it or not, political causes. Is that possible?

As Dr. Gupta said, “deaths of despair seem to be a symptom of an underlying problem, rather than the problem itself.” Cyril Wecht believes that the underlying problem is that American society is increasingly stressed. Pressures make lives more and more difficult. Pressures of making a living, depersonalization, families breaking up, and what he calls the “robotization of society.”

But there were also things that happened on the side of medicine. The idea began to flourish that people should not have to suffer. If they suffer that was seen as a failure of medicine. There always seem to be simple solutions–write a prescription. Drugs can take care of any problem. But simple solutions are often the most dangerous. And prescriptions were one of them.

Of course there is more to it than this. Let’s look farther.

Social Cancer


Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn writing in the New York Times in 2020 said there was “a cancer growing at the heart of the nation.” They meant the USA of course, but really as Jonathan Haidt showed it goes much wider than that. I clearly includes Canada and other countries such as the UK and Australia.

It is that social “cancer” that I want to look at. To do that, I must find it. That may not be easy.

Kristof and WuDunn have a suggestion of where to look:

We have deep structural problems that have been a half century in the making, under both political parties, and that are often transmitted from generation to generation. Only in America has life expectancy now fallen three years in a row, for the first time in a century, because of “deaths of despair.” [They wrote this in 2020]


I had heard that expression before. I think it was another physician, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Dr. Gupta is both a physician and a television medical analyst. He had some very interesting things to say on a fascinating television documentary.


The trigger for Dr. Gupta’s documentary  was another startling fact that as far as I was concerned had gone under the radar. As he said, “In the 1960s Americans had among the highest life expectancy in the world. Today [2019] the U.S. ranks at the bottom of major developed nations.”

In that documentary, Dr. Gupta interviewed another physician a forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, in Greenburg Pennsylvania, who said “the previous year I did 356 autopsies. Of those more than 300 were drug deaths. And this is what is being experienced throughout the country.” He also said, “this is far greater than what we experienced with AIDs. It is a very significant epidemic of monstrous proportions.” As Dr. Sanjay Gupta said, “what we are dealing with in fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin.” Drugs are part of the problem, but I actually think they are more a symptom than the cause. I will post more about this in the future. It is a fascinating issue.

As Dr. Gupta said, “In the United States life expectancy is dropping faster than any other demographic in the world.” According to the Center for Disease Control, “Middle-aged whites are the highest increase in the deaths of despair.” This group also has very high rates of drug overdose. Whites?  Who would have thought that?

What is going on here? That is what we must figure out. What is the cancer at the heart of the United States and Canada?


Eye Witness Testimony

Jonathan Haidt also told the Senate that “eyewitness testimony” confirms the academic findings: social media is a culprit. Not necessarily the only culprit.

Their research and others directly asked teens what they think is causing the problem. As we all know, many of them like social media, like heroin users like heroin,  but when teens were asked whether they think social media overall is good or bad for them, according to Haidt, “The answer is consistently “no.”

Added to that, Haidt pointed out to the Senate that

Facebook’s own internal research, brought out by Frances Haugen in the Wall Street Journal, concluded that “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression … This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

Haidt advised the Senate that in Australia a study showed that “teens believe that social media is the main reason that youth mental health is getting worse.”

This is what Haidt told the Senate committee investing the problem:

“This crisis did not emerge gradually. There was no sign of it before 2010, but by 2015 it was everywhere, overwhelming mental health centers that catered to teens and college students. The crisis emerged in the exact years when American teens were getting smart phones and becoming daily users of social media platforms such as Instagram. Correlational, experimental, and eye-witness testimony points to social media as a major cause of the crisis. I do not believe that social media is the only cause of the crisis, but there is no alternative hypothesis that can explain the suddenness, enormity, and international similarity that I laid out in part 1 of this document. Researchers and spokespeople for the major platforms who tell you that the evidence is “inconclusive” or that the effect sizes are “too small” should be asked directly: “OK, then what do YOU think caused this?”


Haidt and his team believe, based on significant evidence, not just grump adults, that social media is part of the reason that in the United States, Canada and elsewhere are suffering from these serious health problems.

It is clear that in the United States and Canada the countries are experiencing what Haidt called “a catastrophic wave of mood disorders (anxiety and depression) and related behaviors (self harm and suicide).”

The crisis is so severe that the U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, recently issued an Advisory on Youth Mental Health warning Americans to take this problem seriously.

 I think we should all do that. If we don’t the west will continue to decline and many more American and Canadian young people will suffer immeasurably.

A World-Wide Problem


Jonathan Haidt made another important point to the Senators that he has often made in print, namely, that this is not just an American problem. The same crisis has hit “many countries” not only the United States. That means that it cannot be blamed solely on problems unique to the US such as gun violence, particularly in schools. The cause must be broader than that. He then made a statement that should concern Canadians, namely that

 “The patterns are nearly identical in the UK and Canada, and the trends are similar though not identical in Australia and New Zealand. We do not yet see signs of similar epidemics in continental Europe or in East Asia, although I have not yet found good data from those regions.”


Together with His associate researcher Jean Twenge, they had discovered

“a sudden increase between 2012 and 2015 in all regions of the world. These patterns indicate that whatever happened to American teens was not uniquely caused by trends and events in the USA (e.g., a sudden fear of school shootings after the Newtown massacre of 2012). The cause is likely to be something that affected teens in many or all regions of the world at the same time.”


This is a world wide problem, partly because social media is a world wide phenomenon.

Note in particular the sharp rise for Girls after 2020. In particular, between 2012 and 2020 The rates of major depression for girls more than doubled during this time. The increase for boys was not as high.

Most of the research is confined to the west, but by no means exclusively.

One must always bear in mind the scientific point often made, that correlation does not prove causation.  For example, just because 80% of sex assaults are perpetrated by men who ate potatoes that day does not prove potatoes are a cause of sexual assaults.

First, Jonathan Haidt explained to the Senate Select Committee that “Correlational studies consistently show a link between heavy social media use and mood disorders, but the size of the relationship is disputed.”

Haidt then drilled down:

“Nearly all studies find a correlation, and it is usually curvilinear. That is, moving from no social media use to one or two hours a day is often not associated with an increase in poor mental health, but as usage rises to 3 or 4 hours a day, the increases in mental illness often become quite sharp.”


The graphs are quite explicit. To see them go to the reports. The message is loud and clear.  The more young people use social media the more they suffer from serious depression and anxiety and the more likely they are to attempt to commit suicide. Haidt puts it this, contrary to what some of his critics have said,  “The correlation is much larger than for “eating potatoes” or “wearing glasses.”

This is a big deal. We should all take note but particularly our political leaders who have the capacity to respond. This is not something that should be swept under the rug.

Moral Panics are seldom Useful


Jonathan Haidt is quick to admit that new forms of technology often spur quick reactions from adults that amount to moral panics about what awful things kids “these days” are doing.  In my youth it was television. Moral panics are seldom helpful. As Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times said,

“Adults have fretted about the damaging impacts of radio, comic books, television and even the music of Prince. That’s a reason to approach the evidence linking social media to mental health disorders with caution. But it’s not a reason to discount it. After all, unlike hysteria over rock music, concern about the psychological effects of social media is something many young people share. “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said internal Facebook research leaked by the whistle-blower Frances Haugen in 2021. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.


As well, many liberals are quick to blame evil corporations for their children’s woes as conservatives are quick to blame perverted liberals grooming of kids, but this time there is convincing data that social media giants are to blame for the steep rise in serious mental illness among America’s youth.

What we really need to do is look at the evidence dispassionately. Follow the evidence.  Jonathan Haidt says he does that. Let’s look at some more.


The Stupid Decade Continued


Jonathan Haidt makes the astounding claim that starting in the mid 2010s people, particularly young people, but really a lot more than that, starting getting stupid! It’s not just the kids.

Haidt, like me, is a fan of John Stuart Mill who pointed out that if a person only knows his or her own side of a dispute, he knows little of that.  I have blogged earlier about Mill’s arguments on this point.

[If you look under tags  under John Stuart Mill you can find links to these posts] ]

In other words, to really understand a position one must look at it from different perspectives. We need to have opposite cases pushing against each other. That is what used to be done in universities, at least, according to Haidt, until around 2013 or 2014 when universities became places where ideologies were homogenized, and questions about sacred positions became hazardous to professors’ career paths.  It became difficult for professors and their students to challenge conventional wisdom. This was particularly true for a few sacred issues like race, gender, transgender and others. If a professor or even students, suggested there might be a case to be made for views that challenged the conventional wisdom, the challenger would feel the full wrath of social media warriors. And as Haidt said, “when critics go silent, the group gets stupid.”


Haidt admits that we have had polarized views in the past, but the new element is that social media supercharges the tendency to require ideological conformity. That of course amplifies polarization and intellectual tribalism.  The “other side” gets ignored. We need critics to make us smarter. If we don’t have them, we get stupider. We need opposing views or we get stupid. As Haidt said,


 “What’s new is these new dynamics brought to us by social media and especially Twitter, that we’re not shooting the other side so much anymore, we’re shooting the moderates on our own side. And so, what happened in the early to mid-2010s is the moderates on the left and right begin to go silent and the extremes get super empowered.


Haidt points out that as result on the right the Republican Party went off the rails and on the left, it was not so much the Democratic Party that went off the rails, but the supporters of the left who dominate major cultural and educational institutions, universities, media, museums etc. According to Haidt, “Both sides started shooting their moderates…Moderates on the left and right begin go silent and the extremes get super empowered. Metaphorically of course, I must add.


We must remember that polarization has many causes, but social media sure seems to be one of them. Anything that helps to silence our critics helps to make us stupid.  And that according to Haidt is how the west declined—by getting stupid.


A Uniquely Stupid Decade


A few years after he appeared on the Bill Maher show which I posted about yesterday, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, showed up on Amanpour and Co. expanding on his ideas about moral mistakes of the past. He was again explaining how social media was a problem but as always he did so in a very nuanced fashion and based his comments on scientific data. He is not free range pundits spouting off without restraint. Now don’t make nasty suggestions about me.


Haidt spoke with Hari Sreenivasan about the corrosive effects of new technology and how they have transformed the face of society, how they could be improved, and how drastically they have affected young people in North America. They talked a lot about an article he had written in the Atlantic with the engaging title “Why the Past Ten Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid.” It actually sums up nicely a lot of his thinking. He is actually working on book on the subject that I am looking forward to reading.


Haidt has been researching what social media is doing to the minds of children, the behaviors of children, and how maybe that contributes to the larger issues he is thinking about. He wants to go beyond the effects of new technology, and consider the effects on society. His research has showed how kids were the canaries in the coal mine and the ill effects they suffered were also suffered by adults later on. He says social media helped to make the decade from 2010 to 2020 a stupid one. Sreenivasan called it “stupefaction.”


This is how Haidt summed it up on Amanpour & Co. on American PBS in 2022:


“…something changed, something fundamentally changed in the nature of this social universe, in the early 2010s. And everything got weird and kind of stupid after that. And we see it clearly — most clearly with that the kids. All kids have been on screens all the time. When I was a kid, when you were a kid, we watched too much television. We couldn’t take the television with us to school or into the bedroom, and something changed when kids got smartphones. And it’s not just the phone, it’s especially social media. The girls went right for the digital platforms. Instagram and Tumblr. The boys went more for YouTube and video games. And at the time, people said, well, you know, maybe this is good for them to have so much stimulation. But actually, what happened, beginning in 2012, was that rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide all began going up. I mean, it wasn’t a gradual thing, it was like they were sort of stable until 2012 and then, it’s like a hockey stick. They’re now — most of them are 100 percent higher, we kind of doubled it, of the rates of suicide, self-harm, depression and anxiety. So, that has really drawn me in because this, I think, was a national emergency. One that is tractable. And I’ve been studying this in depth to try to figure out what is the evidence that social media actually is a contributor, and there is a fair amount now.”


Haidt is sensitive to the fact that many people will shout out that analysts like him and others have cried wolf in the past about the evil nature of modern technology. As he said.


“…there’s a long history of moral panic, especially around technology. And I’ve been engaging with other psychologists who say I’m fomenting a moral panic. And they’re right to be concerned about that because most of the previous times we freaked out about technology, it hasn’t been actually anything. This time, we believe is different for a couple of reasons. The first is that there’s never been a hockey stick graph, like that that sudden upturn in mental health problems. So, this time, it’s different. Two is that the timing is exactly what you would expect for social media. It’s not a gradual thing. It’s not like something changed and then something else kind of changed. As soon as most kids get on social media and right then, the next very year, rates of depression and anxiety start going up. And then, a final kind of data is, the kids themselves say it. I mean, when we were growing up, we didn’t say, yes, you know, television is making us crazy. Mom and dad, you know, do something. But if you talk to the kids,  about Facebook, Instagram, they talk to the kids and guess what, they say, yes, Instagram is what’s making us depressed and anxious.”


I have been trying to show that there is some serious rot in western society. Not that it is all bad. But there sure is some bad stuff around. Any society that allows it is to some extent in serious decline even though there are many good aspects  to it to. I will continue on the this in my next post.


Coddling the Youth


Well before the recent reports by the CDC and the US Surgeon General,  about the shocking rise of suicides among youth, in 2018, Jonathan Haidt a social psychologist appeared on various television shows to flog his book about his ideas of what happened to American youth, particularly American teenage girls. One of those shows was Real Time with Bill Maher. The book is called The Coddling of the American Mind: How good intentions and Bad Ideas are setting up a generation for Failure co-written by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff.

The book has its origins in an observation by Lukianoff that in 2013 for the first time it was students asking for protection from words and books and ideas and speech. All of which should be protected by the Constitution. Students had protested speakers before, but they never before medicalized it. They said that if this person says something I will be harmed or damaged and people will be traumatized. Therefore, schools like universities should protect them from hearing such speech. This was something new and when they put it in terms of safety to their university officials those officials had no choice but to respond.

As Haidt said, “This brought with it a whole package of innovations: micro-aggression training, safe spaces, trigger warnings, all this stuff appears from out of nowhere from around 2013 and 2014.”This made Haidt realize that this new generation of campus students are even more fragile than the millennials. And they wanted protection. Free speech be damned.

This drove both conservatives and liberals nuts, though liberals had a harder time deflecting these claims.

Haidt pointed out that kids born around 1995 had a very different childhood than children born before them. They don’t get driver licenses as much, they don’t drink as much, they don’t go out on dates, and they don’t have sex as much. What are they doing? They sit at home on their devices often with each other and this seems to be changing social development.” Haidt asserted, “As a result the rates of anxiety disorders, depression, self-cutting, and suicide are way, way up.”

This is particularly true for girls, and it all begins around 2011. In 2013 this generation entered colleges. And that is when these attitudes came out. In part this is because their parents insist on watching them all the time. Instead of helicopter parents they call it bull dozing parenting. They clear out all obstacles for their children. Their children are prepared to face no troubles at all. To put it bluntly, they have been coddled.

The main proposal made by Haidt and Lukianoff is anti-fragility. As Haidt said,

“Some things are fragile like a wine glass. You knock it over it breaks. Nothing good happens. If something is plastic, you knock it over nothing gets damaged. It doesn’t get better. But some things have to be stressed or challenged. Your immune system for example.  If you constantly protect your kid’s immune system, use bacterial wipes constantly, you are actually hurting them. Then you are preventing the system from getting the information it needs. The same thing is true with social life. If you protect your kids from being excluded, from being insulted, from being teased when they grow up it’s like the Princess and the pea. Any little thing they encounter on campus now becomes intolerably painful.”


It doesn’t help that parents try too hard to be their kid’s friends. They negotiated too much. They say, ‘Hey buddy isn’t it time to go?’ According to Haidt, “Kids need instruction and authority.”

This is a very new phenomenon so scientists don’t yet have a lot of data about it. Yet Haidt was prepared to say this in 2018 (later he went even farther and I will get to that in later post): “The preliminary data suggests that the anxiety, the fragility, the mental illness, that is across the country, across social class and across races. And that’s why social media use is starting so early. That seems to be the most likely culprit of several likely culprits.  Just that  week (Oct/2018) students at the Munk University Debates in Canada were demanding that Steve Bannon not be allowed to debate David Frum. That would be a travesty if the organizers gave in.  The Munk debates in Canada went ahead after the same debate had been cancelled in the US by The New Yorker magazine who chickened out because of the uproar.  I lost a lot of respect for the magazine then. I was a subscriber at that time.

Bill Maher had a good point about this. He said allowing the kids to shout down debates is like allowing the kids to take over in their homes. And, of course all of this gives fodder to the right who blame the left wing for the coddling. And there is some truth to that.  In civilization this authority should never be given up to the youth. You don’t stop giving them guidance. On this the right is clearly in the right, in my view.

In 2018 Haidt was worried about what was happening on line. The boys were mainly playing games on the Internet.  They may be killing people but they talk to each other and they co-operate. So, it is not all bad. But the girls were doing something else. They were putting something out and then waiting anxiously for comments from others. They are governed by social comparison and the fear of missing out. With boys bullying is mainly physical. With girls it is relational. So, girls can never get away from it. That is why the suicide rate for boys is up 25%, which is bad, but it is up 70% for girls! This is serious stuff.

And he had more to say about it later. I will get to that.


Releasing the Young from their Handcuffs


Social Psychologist Jonathan Haidt is one of the most brilliant thinkers around. I first encountered him at Arizona State University where Chris and I have attended various lectures over the years during our winter stays.  I missed his lecture there by a couple of days, but thankfully got to hear his recorded lecture.

Jonathan Haidt (pronounced “height”) joined New York University Stern School of Business in July 2011. He is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership, based in the Business and Society Program. Haidt’s research examines the intuitive foundations of morality, and how morality varies across cultures––including the cultures of progressive, conservatives, and libertarians. I have been reading his articles and books for about 10 years and I still don’t know if he is a conservative or a liberal. I don’t think he is a socialist. He is an independent thinker. He wants to apply his research in social and moral psychology to help important institutions work better. Haidt has co-founded a variety of organizations and collaborations that apply moral and social psychology toward that end, including Heterodox He doesn’t like orthodoxies.

His most recent research is teen mental health and how that is related to political dysfunction. He notes that we have deep political dysfunction that current teens will be stuck with even though they did nothing to create it. This reminds me of climate change. Same problem. According to Haidt the older generations have effectively prevented the teens from gaining the capacity to deal with the problems the older generations created and passed on to the teens. That’s not very nice.

Haidt has said that,

“Childhood has become more tightly circumscribed in recent generations––with less opportunity for free, unstructured play; less unsupervised time outside; more time online. Whatever else the effects of these shifts, they have likely impeded the development of abilities needed for effective self-governance for many young adults. Unsupervised free play is nature’s way of teaching young mammals the skills they’ll need as adults, which for humans include the ability to cooperate, make and enforce rules, compromise, adjudicate conflicts, and accept defeat.”


The current adults have programmed the upcoming generation to fail, by bringing them up to be unable to think and act freely.  The new generation was forced to rely too much on their parents—the famous helicopter parents or even worse bulldozer parents. As a result, the teens are unable to learn how to deal with the world they have to face.

Haidt has learned a lot from an essay by an economist Steven Horwitz who argued that the loss of free play posed a serious threat to liberal societies because the upcoming generation has not learned the social skills needed to solve disputes.  They will have no chance  to solve them so will in all likelihood turn to authorities to resolve disputes that in turn will cause them to suffer “from a coarsening of social interaction” that could “create a world of more conflict and violence.”

Haidt has paid particular attention to the role of social media and its effects on these hapless teens. Here is how Haidt summarized his own research:

“And while social media has eroded the art of association throughout society, it may be leaving its deepest and most enduring marks on adolescents. A surge in rates of anxiety, depression and self-harm among American teens began suddenly in the early 2010s. (The same thing happened to Canadian and British teens, at the same time.) The cause is not known, but the timing points to social media as a substantial contributor—the surge began just as the large majority of American teens became daily users of the major platforms. Correlational and experimental studies back up connection to depression and anxiety, as do reports from young people themselves, and from Facebook’s own research, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.’

Haidt’s research showed a remarkable timing of youth attaching themselves to new social media and the rise of youth anxiety and depression.

This incapacity has been revealed most strikingly in university classes, though it is felt everywhere. Here is how Haidt described life for this generation at North American colleges:

Depression makes people less likely to want to engage with new people, ideas, and experiences. Anxiety makes new things seem more threatening. As these conditions have risen and as the lessons on nuanced social behavior learned through free play have been delayed, tolerance for diverse viewpoints and the ability to work out disputes have diminished among many young people. For example, university communities that could tolerate a range of speakers as recently as 2010, arguably began to lose that ability in subsequent years, as Gen Z began to arrive on campus. Attempts to disinvite visiting speakers rose. Students did not just say that they disagreed with visiting speakers; some said that those lectures would be dangerous, emotionally devastating, a form of violence. Because rates of teen depression and anxiety have continued to rise into the 2020s, we should expect these views to continue in the generations to follow, and indeed to become more severe.

 That is one reason hat Haidt urges governments to reduce the damaging effects of social media on adolescents by reducing its availability to them. He urges that they not be allowed onto social media platforms until they have reached at least the age of 16. He also says businesses must be compelled to enforce such regulations.

He thinks the most important thing we can do for them is to let them out to play. We should stop starving children of the vital experiences they most need to become good citizens and that is “free play.”  Not organized play much preferred by helicopter parents. He likes the laws established in Utah, Oklahoma, and Texas where free-range parenting laws help to assure parents that they won’t get into trouble for “neglecting” their children by allowing them to play freely. Kids should also be allowed to walk to school and play in groups as they used to do.

This could go a long way towards detoxifying social media for teens and adolescents.

A lot of people point to social media as the culprit. Haidt backs it up with solid science.


Are Prayerful Hopes Enough?


The American Center for Disease Control and Prevention (‘CDC’) is respected widely around the world, though among right-wing science-denying Americans not so much. Perhaps they don’t like their reports for ideological reasons rather than scientific reasons.

The CDC has issued a vitally important report that these same right-wing opponents will also want to reject. The report was called the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (‘CDC Youth Risk Report). According to this report, teen girls in the US have experienced record levels of violence, sadness, and suicide risk in recent years.

The CDC Youth Risk Report also shone a spotlight on alarming statistics about young girls being forced into sex and harbouring serious thoughts of suicide. How is this possible in the greatest country in the world?

If the report is true, and I have heard no evidence-based critique of it, it is extremely important that American political leaders of all stripes not ignore it. Although more than 17,000 students participated in the report it was conducted in the fall of 2021 in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Naturally many children, no doubt more than normally the case, were anxious and feeling isolated.

Jonathan Haidt a social psychologist at New York University and a leader at  a laboratory on social psychology has shown the scientific data does not support the idea that the cause of this problem is the pandemic. The evidence clearly showed that this trend predated the pandemic and there was only a surprisingly minor blip during the pandemic.

I want to also say that this is not an American problem.  Haidt confirmed that the science is very similar for Canada and the UK.

Nonetheless, according to Debra Houry, the Chief Medical Officer for the CDC “the results are alarming.”

The CDC Youth Risk Report said that more than 40% of high school students had feelings of sadness or hopelessness “that prevented them from engaging in their regular activities for a least two weeks of the year.” That is nearly half!  Do we think nearly half were just trying to get an extended vacation?


I know some students in Canada who had such feelings and they were real. Interestingly, girls suffered more than boys with rates nearly double that of boys. 57% of girls and 29% of boys felt persistently sad or hopeless. Added to that, nearly 1 in 3 teenage girls considered attempting suicide! That was 60 percent higher than 10 years earlier!


Finally, 1 in 7 teen girls said they had at some point been forced to have sex and nearly 1 in 5 had experienced violence within the past year.

Some parents on hearing about this report said they were filled with “prayerful hope” that this was a mere “reflection of this pandemic uncertainty.”

Personally, I hope that Evangelical supporters of right-wing regimes across the US consider more than just prayerful hopes and pay some attention to the scientific data, even if it’s not perfect. Relying solely on such hopes could be dangerous for young people.

They really need more than prayerful hope!