In an age where cave dwellers ate small animals and worried about being eaten by larger ones, anxiety was a good thing. “Fight or flight” has seen its day, and that occasional, sudden bolus of adrenaline has been replaced by a lower, 24/7 time-release dosage. “The Age of Anxiety” by W.H. Auden won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Its 138 pages are so boring that no one outside of a college English department has read them, yet the title has defined our culture for the past 60+ years. Bank failures, nuclear breakdowns (Fukushima Daiichi) or build-ups (Iran), unemployment, foreclosures; these and more are tag-team contributors. There are 40 million people in the US with clinically diagnosed anxiety; it is by far the most widespread psychiatric complaint. The fashionable anti-anxiety drug Xanax is the most-prescribed psycho-pharmaceutical. In states that allow it, anxiety is the most popular excuse for a medical marijuana license. I’ve used Consumer Reports when buying products ranging from toasters to cars, but haven’t previously associated them with stress. It turns out that CR publishes a “Stress Index”; it shows that we are more stressed than a year ago, but not so much more as we were a month ago. Just reading that last sentence stresses me out. If you are holding Xanax stock, I wouldn’t sell just yet.
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