Not to Worry
Documenting the Rise of Anxiety in the United States across Space and Time by Using Text Analysis of Online Review Data
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, November 2023
In this article, the author demonstrates how one can use large-scale and publicly available online review data to study the rise in anxiety in the United States. Using the anxiety keyword list from the dictionary compiled by Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count, the author analyzed the text of approximately 7 million online reviews submitted by Yelp reviewers across 13 U.S. states from 2006 to 2021. The overall pattern confirms existing discourse that anxiety has been constantly rising in Western societies since 2000. Beyond documenting the overall pattern, online review data enable the disaggregation of this pattern by geographies, price levels, and individuals, thereby providing a more comprehensive and detailed picture than previously documented in existing literature. Additional analysis shows that anxiety is increasing faster than other emotions, such as anger and sadness.
Does High-Speed Internet Access Affect the Mental Health of Older Adults?
University of Wisconsin Working Paper, November 2023
Recent research has shown the negative effects of social media on younger people’s mental health. Yet, we do not know whether the same effects are present across the population, particularly for older adults, who are especially vulnerable to certain mental health conditions. I estimate the effect of broadband internet access on the mental health of older adults (aged 50+) in the United States, using individual panel data and recent advances in difference-in-differences (DID) methods for staggered rollouts of treatment. In contrast to the literature that finds harmful effects of the internet among younger populations, my results show that broadband rollout significantly reduces depression symptoms by 5.7% among older adults. The results show that an increase in social connectedness and a decline in social isolation are the primary mechanisms driving these positive effects. Improved health literacy and technological efficiency (telehealth) also partly drive the results. I also find important heterogeneity by gender and geography, with rural dwellers and women being the biggest beneficiaries of broadband’s positive effects on mental health. The magnitudes of my estimates of the impact of broadband access are comparable with major life events known to negatively affect the mental health of older adults, such as job loss, recession, and the death of a spouse. These results highlight the significant benefits of broadband for the mental health of older adults and suggest an unmeasured additional benefit to public investments in broadband infrastructure.
Nature nurtures authenticity: Mechanisms and consequences
Ying Yang et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming
Contact with nature may benefit, not only the bodily organism, but also the psychological self. We proposed that, assuming humans’ innate affinity for nature (the biophilia hypothesis), nature would be conducive to a sense of environment-self fit, which would be experienced as authenticity (being aligned with one’s true self). We formulated several hypotheses: (a) nature fosters authenticity, and it does so through at least four plausible mechanisms: self-esteem, basic needs satisfaction (autonomy, competence, relatedness), mindfulness, and positive affect; (b) self-esteem is the strongest mechanism overall, and autonomy is the strongest mechanism of the three basic needs; (c) self-esteem and authenticity mediate sequentially the positive impact of nature on current psychological well-being (higher life satisfaction and meaning in life); and (d) authenticity mediates the positive influence of nature on longer term psychological well-being (higher life satisfaction and meaning in life, lower depression, anxiety, and stress). We obtained support for these hypotheses across 12 studies (N = 5,512). These were diverse in terms of setting (field, laboratory), design (cross-sectional, experimental, longitudinal), methodology (varying manipulations of nature and assessment of mediators and/or dependent measures), and sampling (university/community, East Asian/Western). The findings establish nature as a correlate and determinant of authenticity, chiefly via the mechanism of self-esteem, and further establish authenticity (preceded by self-esteem) as a mediator of the positive influence of nature on psychological well-being. The findings are also generative and have policy implications.
Racial, Ethnic, and Sex Disparities in Mental Health Among U.S. Service Members and Veterans: Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study
Neika Sharifian et al.
American Journal of Epidemiology, forthcoming
Although disparities in mental health occur within racially, ethnically, and gender-diverse civilian populations, it is unclear whether these disparities persist within U.S. military populations. Using cross-sectional data from the Millennium Cohort Study (2014-16, n=103,184, 70.3% men, 75.7% non-Hispanic White), a series of logistic regression models were conducted to examine whether racial, ethnic, and/or sex disparities were found in mental health outcomes (posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD], depression, anxiety, problematic anger), hierarchically adjusting for sociodemographic, military, health-related, and social support factors. Compared with non-Hispanic White individuals, those who identified as American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic/Latino or Multiracial showed greater risk of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and problematic anger in unadjusted models. Racial and ethnic disparities in mental health were partially explained by health-related and social support factors. Women showed greater risk of depression and anxiety and lower risk of PTSD than men. Evidence of intersectionality emerged for problematic anger for Hispanic/Latino and Asian or Pacific Islander women. Overall, racial, ethnic, and sex disparities in mental health persisted among service members and veterans. Future research and interventions are recommended to reduce these disparities and improve the health and well-being in diverse service members and veterans.
The bright side of secrecy: The energizing effect of positive secrets
Michael Slepian et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, November 2023, Pages 1018-1035
Existing wisdom holds that secrecy is burdensome and fatiguing. However, past research has conflated secrecy with the kinds of adverse events that are often kept secret. As a result, it is unclear whether secrecy is inherently depleting, or whether these consequences vary based on the underlying meaning of the secret. We resolve this confound by examining the consequences of positive secrets. In contrast to the prior research, five experiments (N = 2,800) find that positive secrets increase feelings of energy, relative to (a) content-matched positive non-secrets, (b) other pieces of unknown positive information, and (c) other kinds of secrets. Importantly, these energizing effects of positive secrets were independent of positive affect. We further found that positive secrets are energizing because, compared to other kinds of secrets, people keep them for more intrinsically than extrinsically motivated reasons. That is, these secrets are more freely chosen, more consistent with personal values, and more motivated by internal desires (than by external pressures). Using both measures and manipulations of these motivations, we found that a motivational mechanism helps explain the energizing effect of positive secrets. The present results offer new insights into secrecy, how people respond to positive life events, and the subjective experiences of vitality and energy.