Since the 1930s, Americans have been reporting increasing amounts of symptoms related to anxiety and depression. As a social psychologist at San Diego State University, Dr. Jean Twenge has spent much of her career trying to find out why.
In the last decade, Twenge has examined numerous surveys and studies to examine the difference in reports of anxiety and depression since the Great Depression. Some argue those reporting anxiety and depression from the 1990s likely didn't feel the same depression people reported in the 1930s. However, other studies that examine common symptoms related to anxiety and depression, such as trouble falling asleep, still see an increasing trend.
For example, in a study conducted between 1982 and 2012, researchers surveyed 12th graders across the U.S., asking them if they had trouble remembering, thinking or concentrating, learning, or sleeping, and if they experienced shortness of breath. All the symptoms rose significantly over the 20 years, with a peak in 2008. Twenge notes the plateau after 2010 could be attributed to the amount of anxiety medication such as Prozac that have been prescribed over the years.
Largely though, notes New York magazine writer Jesse Singal, modern life could be taking people away from people, and as highly social creatures, humans need interaction. Singal writes that maybe the message isn't about everything going bad but that modern society needs to do a better job of bringing people together physically, not just digitally.