Matt Yglesias on depression and political ideology
The connection between Left thinking and high neuroticism (as a formal personality trait) is one of the most underdiscussed yet important themes in American politics (to be clear, the Right has its own pathologies as well). Here is one excerpt from Matt’s latest Substack (gated):
But I want to talk about something Goldberg mentions but doesn’t focus on: a 2021 paper by Catherine Gimbrone, Lisa Bates, Seth Prins, and Katherine Keyes titled “The politics of depression: Diverging trends in internalizing symptoms among US adolescents by political beliefs.” The CDC survey doesn’t ask teens about their political beliefs, but Gimbrone et. al. find not only divergence by gender, but divergence by political ideology. Breaking things down by gender and ideology, they find that liberal girls have the highest increase in depressive affect and conservative boys have the least. But liberal boys are more depressed than conservative girls, suggesting an important independent role for political ideology.
Some of it might be selection effect, with progressive politics becoming a more congenial home for people who are miserable. But I think some of it is poor behavior by adult progressives, many of whom now valorize depressive affect as a sign of political commitment. The thing about depression, though, is that it’s bad.
…progressive institutional leaders have specifically taught young progressives that catastrophizing is a good way to get what they want…
One of the best and most important pieces you will read this year. I would go as far to say that you cannot understand the American public intellectual sphere without a grasp of the close connection between Left thinking and high neuroticism. I would add that incorporating gender expectations into Matt’s analysis would give it yet more explanatory power. Once you see all this, you can never look away again and forget it…
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