Posts Tagged ‘Optimism and Pessimism’

What is killing middle-aged white men? Despair

November 4, 2015


We take it for granted that, in scientifically advanced countries, the death rate will decline.  But since 1999, there has been a dramatic increase in the death rate among non-Hispanic American white men aged 45 to 54, especially those without education beyond high school.

No such increase occurs among middle-aged white people in other countries or among other American ethnic groups.  Although the death rate for African-Americans is higher, it is not increasing, and, as the chart shows, the death rate for middle-aged Hispanic Americans (USH) is decreasing.

A Princeton University study indicates that the main reasons for the increased death rate are an increase in alcohol-related disease (liver disease), in drug overdoses (heroin and opioids) and in suicide—all diseases associated with depression and despair.

[Note added 11/13/2015: Some experts say the increase is primarily among middle-aged white women.]


Optimism or pessimism?

October 23, 2015

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I schedule and sometimes lead a Sunday morning discussion group at First Universalist Church of Rochester, NY.  One Sunday the discussion leader made the case for that, although there were very serious problems in the world, some things are getting better.

One of the members of the group angrily disagreed.  He said that although some things are getting better, there are very serious problems in the world.

The world has in fact become a better place in some ways.  That doesn’t mean it will automatically become a better place in all ways, but it is reason to resist hopelessness.


It’s a cold hard fact: Our world is becoming a better place by Max Roser, creator of Our World in Data.

50 Reasons We’re Living Through the Greatest Period of World History by Morgan Housel for The Motley Fool (via Barry Ritholtz)

Who in the world is hopeful about the future?

June 21, 2014

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One of the defining characteristics of Americans used to be that, whatever our circumstances, almost all of us expected that our children and grandchildren would be better off than we are.

This is no longer true.  And a Pew Research survey indicates that people in other supposedly advanced nations are more pessimistic than we are.

While 62 percent of Americans expect the next generation to be financially worse off than their parents, this pessimistic view is held by 64 percent of Canadians, 64 percent of Germans, 74 percent of the British, 76 percent of Japanese and 90 percent of the French.

The most optimistic nations in the world are China, where 82 percent of those surveyed said they expect a better future, and Brazil, where 79 percent are hopeful (see below).  Among European countries, the least pessimistic was Russia.

I think survey results in China or any other dictatorship have to be taken with a certain amount of skepticism, but, even so, I am astonished at the differences among countries.