Stress of Trump era harms Americans’ psychological health

Psychologists find a marked increase in stress in early 2017, as Americans struggle to cope with rumors of looming war, an uncertain political future, and a deep rift between left and right lawmakers.

Matt Haig

Twitter: @matthaig1

WASHINGTON, DC — For more than 20 years, Goddy Aledan has been driving people from both sides of the political divide through the streets of Washington DC. Yet lately his passengers are much more antsy than usual. He says he has never previously noticed this degree of anxiety and fear in his passengers.

“I would say 60 percent of those that ride my cab are really anxious,” Aledan said from behind the wheel, as he maneuvers through rush hour traffic. And it’s not just office politics or finding a new job after a grueling election cycle, it’s the very fate of human civilisation that has his riders on edge.

“They fear that this guy could take us to war,” Aledan said — “this guy” being Donald Trump, the president of the United States.

And this is all happening in a town that has some of the country’s highest per capita rates of mental health professionals, ranking fifth nationwide according to federal labour data. Other parts of the country aren’t so lucky. The states of Michigan, Texas and California suffer severe shortages of psychiatric professionals, says the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-partisan healthcare research group.

In both foreign and domestic policy, critics accuse Trump of fear-mongering, worries which have only been amplified by controversial executive orders: notably the travel ban, a bid to withhold funds from “sanctuary cities,” and the crackdown on undocumented immigrants. Others fear for the future of reproductive rights and healthcare for the sick.

Meanwhile, the looming shadow of atomic annihilation has made a comeback for residents of the nation’s capital, and the whole world, with relations between Russia and the United States worsening against the backdrop of a North Korean nuclear threat. And these are just the first 100 days of Trump.

Over the last year, US politics have become startlingly unpredictable, and Trump’s nomination and election win seem to be only the beginning. On Tuesday, Trump shocked Washington by firing the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, as the agency was in the midst of investigating Russia’s role in Trump’s victory. Accusations of high-level collusion with Russia have added a layer of paranoia to political life in the city.

From the east coast to the west coast, Americans are experiencing signs of stress and anxiety brought on by politics. Sometimes these feelings can express themselves as anger and even violence, with brawls breaking out at campuses between rival protesters. Even places that seem completely apolitical, such as a local gymnasium, aren’t immune.

Anxiety officially on the rise

For the first time in ten years, the American Psychological Association (APA) — the largest scientific and professional organisation representing psychology in the United States — found that Americans’ overall stress level increased between August 2016 and January 2017.

And Aledan’s estimate of anxiety among around 60 percent of DC cab passengers corresponds with other data.  Two-thirds of Americans reported being stressed about the future of the nation, according to the APA’s online survey Stress in America: Coping with Change.

“The stress we’re seeing around political issues is deeply concerning, because it’s hard for Americans to get away from it,” Katherine Nordal, APA’s executive director for professional practice, said in a press release after the report was released in February.

Source: TRT World


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