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Dash of Pepper

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Happy Pubbies?
Depressed Dems?
The Gazette Staff
The Gallup organization has just reported some interesting news.
Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent, according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls.
Among Republicans, 58 percent report having excellent mental health, compared to 43 percent of independents, and 38 percent of Democrats. The relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of incomes, age, gender, church attendance and education.
According to the report, "The differences are quite significant. While Democrats are slightly less likely to report excellent mental health than are independents, the big distinctions in these data are the differences between Republicans and everyone else.
It can be easily said that Republicans in general are better educated, earn more income and are more likely to be churchgoers. But the Gallop report shows that even if one controls for those variables, the striking difference exists.
Republicans in all demographic categories report better mental health than independents and much better mental health than Democrats.
It could be argued that Republicans, who are generally conservatives, hold an optimistic belief in individual merit and achievement, and therefore, have a happier outlook on life in general. It could also be argued that Democrats are generally left-leaning liberals (a.k.a. socialists) and it may be fair to say that socialism focuses on the negative and makes it more likely believers will entertain a dark outlook.
One commentator analyzed it this way: Unhappy people are often angry at the world; they think the world is a bad place and needs to be changed; they don't want to accept responsibility for their own problems and prefer to talk about government solutions. They are often jealous of those who are happier and more successful than themselves and try to use government to exact revenge
Happy people, he says, are unlikely to have the determination to enlist government on their behalf. He also says the message is mixed for Republicans. They may be happier and healthier than their Democrat neighbors, but that may make them less passionate about imposing their political beliefs on others. I'm not sure that is true. Most Republicans I know are pretty conservative and quite passionate about their closely held beliefs, but I do think they are not inclined to preach.
The report concludes that the reason for the happiness disparity is unclear. I think part of the reason might be found in Psychology 101 - the theory of good old "cognitive dissonance." For those of you who were smart enough to avoid psychology, it goes like this: It's easy, for a while, to rationalize contradictions in one's beliefs, or one's situation. But over time, a small voice works on the mind and gradually reality sinks in. Just think what it would be like if you had spent your life earnestly believing certain ideas, only to find out later that they were erroneous, ineffectual and, worst of all, unpopular. It's likely that depression would set in.
I recall my husband telling me about a trip to Berlin back in the 1980s, before the fall of the wall. He was attending a conference and organizers had contacts in East Berlin. A tour was arranged, out of curiosity. My husband said crossing over was like going from day into night. The pale spring sunlight had nothing to reflect. The streets, the buildings, the people themselves seemed grey. Unlike West Berlin, there were no neon lights, no pretty sidewalk cafes rimmed with flowers, no gaily dressed smiling passersby.
Grey is the color of hopelessness.
Later, the wall came down then the Soviet Union imploded on itself - the victim of a failed economic philosophy, the anachronism called socialism. Ronnie Reagan scared the Soviet generals with his talk of Star Wars and they bankrupted their budgets with a military buildup that their economic system could not support.
I think something else also happened. With improved technology and slightly more freedom under President Gorbachov, Soviet citizens were able to get a glimpse of the modern world. They began to realize that the system wasn't competitive. Workers were paid the same no matter the quality of their work. Merit went unrewarded. Ingenuity and entrepreneurship could land you out of a job or even in jail. They turned their backs on an outmoded system.
Just think for a moment if you lived in this country and still believed in this old system. If you found the majority of your fellow citizens don't share your beliefs, you'd have two choices: change your belief system - or - get depressed.
Hence the great disparity in the Gallop poll results.


Last Updated on Friday, 12 June 2009 15:34  

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