According to the New York Times, Americans are among the most anxious people on earth. The Times reported a study by the World Mental Health Survey that found Americans to be the most anxious people in the fourteen nations covered by the research. Americans were significantly more anxious than residents of nations like Nigeria, Lebanon, and Ukraine. We spend billions of dollars every year on antianxiety medications and additional millions to fund research into the causes and cures for anxiety disorders.
One recent study suggested that children who are picky eaters might later be more prone toward anxiety. Another study suggests that stress during childhood can affect the makeup of bacteria in our stomachs and intestines and could influence our mental health and trigger anxiety.
Other experts study the relationship between anxiety and genetics. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison reported that a study of monkeys revealed some of them had a more “anxious temperament” than others, and the scientists were able to find some hereditary linkage. According to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, about 30 percent of a human’s anxiety can be attributed to inherited factors. That means, the researchers note, that 70 percent of our anxieties can be affected by changing our outlooks and habits.
Time magazine recently devoted its cover story to teenage anxiety, and the headline was: “The Kids Are Not All Right: American teens are anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed.” The article pointed out that today’s adolescents “are the post-9/11 generation, raised in an era of economic and national insecurity. They’ve never known a time when terrorism and school shootings weren’t the norm. They grew up watching their parents weather a severe recession, and, perhaps most importantly, they hit puberty at a time when technology and social media were transforming society.”
One expert said, “If you wanted to create an environment to churn out angsty people, we’ve done it.”
One teenager explained, “We’re the first generation that cannot escape our problems at all. We’re all like little volcanoes. We’re getting this constant pressure, from our phones, from our relationships, from the way things are today.”
The magazine failed to ascribe any blame to secularism with its despair-inducing implications. We’ve had several generations of children flowing through the pipeline of a secular educational system where God and Scripture and prayer are treated as banned substances, where the spiritual life of students is nonexistent, and where young people are indoctrinated with the hypothesis they are nothing but mutated molecules of primordial sludge that somehow evolved into carbon beings with no ultimate purpose, destined to quickly perish without hope in a universe that doesn’t care. Educators spend forty hours a week pounding that message into our children’s mind—and then spend millions of dollars researching why youngsters battle anxiety and depression.
Still, even those of us who know the Lord, who love our Bibles, and who have a grasp on our sure and certain hope struggle with anxious hearts. All the factors I’ve mentioned (and others) contribute to anxiety. We’re all different, with various genetics, from various backgrounds, and anxiety is a complex issue. But I think the primary cause of anxiety is simple: we’re anxious people because we have a lot to be anxious about. We’re spinning on a planet filled with a million dangers. We face scores of daily stresses and distresses, which often come uninvited and unanticipated. We have multiplied fears for our children, our loved ones, our families, our churches, our nation, our world, and ourselves. We have valid concerns about our health and finances, about our safety and our security.
Robert J. Morgan, Worry Less, Live More: God’s Prescription for a Better Life (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2017).
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The Practice of Rejoicing
The Practice of Gentleness
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The Practice of Discipleship
The Practice of Peace
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