I read two articles recently about subjects that surely have to be related. The first article, (The Lonely Burden of Today’s Teenage girls, WSJ, Aug 15, 2019) was about the rise in anxiety and depression among young women. The statistics are absolutely alarming:
“In 2011, the American College Health Association reported that 31% of female freshmen said they had experienced overwhelming anxiety or panic attacks; by 2016, that had shot up to 62%.”
The second article, (Can Religion still speak to Younger Americans, WSJ, Nov 15, 2019) was about the rise in those who identify as “nones”.. no religious affiliation.
“Recent data from the American Family Survey indicates that their numbers increased from 16% in 2007 to 35% in 2018.”
I believe the ease with which millennials are shunning religion is one of the byproducts of the cancel culture that has swept the land and is tied, at least in some measure, to the epidemic of anxiety and depression.
Let’s face it, if someone, or some entity, holds even ONE view you disagree with, society is saying that it’s incumbent upon you to “cancel” them and write them off entirely. Every action, transaction and relationship these days is considered a vote that might need to be defended:
Is that fairly traded hot cocoa?
Is your dog a rescue?
That’s not a REAL leather purse, is it?
Of course refusing to go to Starbucks because of some political stance doesn’t mean you will never drink coffee again; in contrast, writing off “religion” is much more all encompassing and has deep and long lasting implications.
If we use the image of a Thanksgiving dinner to illustrate life, many millennials need to know where you stand before they’ll offer you a seat. Putting differences aside for the sake of something greater than oneself- like a friendship, family or faith community- is not a given anymore.
Imagine the stress created when every association (personal or professional) is subject to ever-stricter societal litmus testing. Add to that the lack of any solid framework of faith around one’s life, no sense that there’s a greater reason for one’s existence, the often fruitless search for unconditional love and acceptance and it’s easy to understand why our youth are struggling.