Covid-19 Is Amplifying the Toxic Effects of Modern Life
The more modern someone’s world becomes, the higher their risk of mental illness
Every week, the drumbeat of news predicting a mental health fallout from Covid-19 becomes louder. Given all that is happening, and may still happen, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees. However, I believe things will be worse than even the most dire predictions.
The reason I’m making this ominous warning is that some of the same effects of Covid-19 were already alive and well long before the pandemic appeared.
For the sake of clarity and decency, I’ll state at the outset that I am not referring to the horrible death toll and the separation of families from their sick loved ones. Nor am I referring to the economic price being paid by millions of Americans for societal shutdown, the daily danger faced by frontline workers, and the stress we all feel in the face of a world turned upside down.
What Covid-19 has done to exacerbate its obvious impact is to redouble the toxic effects of modern life itself — a realm I’ve studied closely as a psychiatrist for the past 15 years. This is such an important phenomenon that it needs some background to fully flesh out.
The more modern someone’s world becomes, the higher their risk of mental illness.
For the past several generations, mental illnesses have become more common or have begun earlier in life. Depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicide are all more prevalent, almost decade by decade. The classic severe mental illnesses (severe by virtue of how sick and disabled they typically make someone) such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are not more common, but they appear earlier and have a worse course.
The changes we have seen in the incidence and severity of mental illness know no boundaries. They exist in almost all industrialized countries. The common denominator is modern life itself. The more modern someone’s world becomes, the higher their risk of mental illness. What is it about modern life — where time use, safety, and health have all been enhanced by technology — that is detrimental to psychic well-being? It seems like our…