Study: 56% of young liberal women…

I ran across a study from Pew Research that showed that more than half of young liberal women are suffering from depression and anxiety. I wondered why? There’s been an epidemic in mental health issues for everyone due to the global pandemic. Women in general are hardest hit, but this one group is suffering more. In fact, I also learned that women suffer from depression and anxiety 40% more than men. That’s an issue for another story, but worth exploring more.

Katherine Finchy Park Palm Springs
Where I spent the year on my morning walks while sheltering in place.

I read about this phenomenon in Evie Magazine in an article by Elizabeth Condra:

Here’s What the Study Found

“The study in question — which, by the way, isn’t from a news source or media outlet but Pew Research for heaven’s sake — is, when all’s said and done, pretty damning. 

The study, which examined white liberals, moderates, and conservatives, both male and female, found that conservatives were far less likely to be diagnosed with mental health issues than those who identified as either liberal or even “very liberal.” What’s more, white women suffered the worst of all. White women, ages 18-29, who identified as liberal were given a mental health diagnosis from medical professionals at a rate of 56.3%, as compared to 28.4% in moderates and 27.3% in conservatives.

Interestingly enough, the study, which is titled Pew American Trends Panel: Wave 64, was dated March 2020 — over a year ago. Yet it took a Ph.D. candidate in political science posting about the study on Twitter for it to garner even a smidge of attention.

What I learned by reading the study and several articles about it is that young liberal women often focus on horrific things out of their control. The words used are “no agency.” They worry about climate change, poverty, rape culture, racial injustice, all the awful things in our world that they can’t fix. All worthy things to be concerned about, but it can be overwhelming, especially during a global pandemic.

To top that off, the algorithms of social media and news articles continue to feed more and more negative stories — if that’s what they’re reading.

The conservative young women do care about these issues, too, but tend to focus more on what they can control in their own lives. They also may not have such an overwhelmingly negative feed with their big tech algorithm. And they may have faith and practice their religion.

From the article: Zach Goldberg, the doctoral candidate in question, consolidated the study’s info in a set of visuals and posted them to a thread on Twitter. But it’s important to note that he clarified the following: “I didn’t write this thread to mock white liberals or their apparently disproportionate rates of mental illness (and you shouldn’t either). Rather, this is a question that’s underexplored and which may shed light on attitudinal differences towards various social policies.” 

This reminds me of advice I received at a writer’s conference from the great Ray Bradbury. He said “garbage in, garbage out.” He advised us to turn off the news altogether because they are selling soap and it’s overwhelmingly negative. He said to read a poem, essay and the Bible every day instead. I am a big believer in trying to stay positive and look at the bright side of things. I tease my husband that it’s because of my blood type “Be Positive” as opposed to his “Oh Negative.”

What are your thoughts about political beliefs and mental health? Do you believe there is a connection or not? Do you think social media plays a big role with the epidemic of depression and anxiety and why or why not?

17 thoughts on “Study: 56% of young liberal women…

  1. I don’t think we needed a study to show that people who dwell on things out of their control are worse off than those who don’t. Though the people who dwell will be the first to chastise those who don’t…

    • Good point! I also wonder if the liberal young women are more likely to get mental health help than the conservative women? Or do they need it more because of what they dwell on?

      • That’s a good point…they probably would go for therapy quicker….but they also probably need it more….this is something to think about and chew on

  2. In general, people who worry more about things out of their control suffer from depression (and anxiety). What I think is interesting is the two groups the scholar chose to focus on: liberal and conservative and how they choose to handle hearing information. I hope what I’ve said makes sense.

  3. I would wonder what sort of life experiences the liberal women had vs the conservative women? Were the women in the liberal group more likely to have been the victim of sexual assault? Are the liberal women more likely to be gay? If you are gay or have been a victim of sexual assault are you going to be more likely to seek out mental health treatment?
    I don’t the Republican party of today is a very welcoming place for those with certain struggles, so it may be that those with preexisting mental health issues gravitate to a liberal point of view.
    I’m in my fifties. I have struggled with depression most of my adult life. I voted mostly Republican until 2008.
    I was raised with a more conservative worldview, which included religion. I’m not sure that in any way helped with my mental health issues.
    I think the study is interesting—not sure I take away any big conclusions from it. No doubt we should all limit how much social media we consume.

  4. Howdy Elizabeth!

    As a teacher of psychology and former mental health professional, I have some concerns about the methodology and generalizations coming from this Pew Poll. First, it isn’t a study of any kind. It is a poll which at best can demonstrate correlation, but not causation.

    Second, from the article you linked to describing the Pew Poll, only one question is ever listed, “Has a doctor or other healthcare provider EVER told you you have a mental health condition?” That in and of itself is problematic and be the spurious variable that has led to the results:

    (1) In my experience few medical doctors or other healthcare providers will volunteer the information that you have a mental health condition unless it is severe. Most of the time when medical doctors discuss a patients mental health it is because the patient has brought it up as in, “I may be depressed,” or “Do you think I might be depressed?” Which, if true, and it may not be since this is just my impression, it could very well be that liberal women are far more likely to ask their doctors about their mental health condition than anyone else, thus the positive answer to the question.

    (2) Liberal women are far more likely to use mental health friendly and adjacent terms. They are far more likely to talk about their emotions than men, liberal or conservative, or conservative women because of the mental health stigma that exists in our country. So, their doctors and healthcare providers may hear liberal women talk about themselves in terms that use phrasing reflecting depression and feel they have permission to bring up a sensitive topic with them.

    At the end of almost every doctor’s visit, which is usually focused on a specific issue, the doctor will say, “do you have anything else you want to bring up?” It is easy for me to imagine that a liberal woman might could at that point bring up her mental health issues, but most men (liberal or conservative) and conservative women will just say, no.

    Doctor’s offices routinely screen for mental health issues on their intake forms, but once past the initial visit rely on patients to bring issues up. So, no discussion that suggests depression or other mental health issues, no one is going to bring it up.

    The spurious variable driving the correlation may be the mental health savvy terms and phrases that liberal women will use.

    (3) Liberal women are far more likely to “hear” or accept any discussion of mental health issues than anyone else for the same reason. It could be that doctors and healthcare providers are bring up mental health concerns to all kinds of people, but they are so ashamed and in denial that they just don’t hear it or when asked in such a survey, deny it because of social desirability bias.

    It is true that excessive worry about things you cannot control can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, but there is a lot more here to unpack and explore before we can come to any solid conclusion.

    I would love to hear from some of your readers whether any of this rings true with them, though. And, you’ve got some very thoughtful responses here.


      • Howdy Elizabeth!

        It’s an interesting finding and one that warrants further follow up because their are other possible causes than just being liberal and a woman.

        You’ve got a good blog going. I’m looking forward to dropping in from time to time.


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