by Joseph Coletti
Senior Fellow, Fiscal Studies, John Locke Foundation
Younger people and older working class men are the vanguard of a loss of trust in traditional institutions. They have been hardest hit by lack of opportunity and lack of human connection. Jordan Roberts has commented on the effects among Millennials. Derek Thompson at The Atlantic highlights the parallels between them and older men:
As the older working class and younger generations struggle to renegotiate their attachments to faith, family, and community, they face similar challenges with regard to their mental health. Anxiety, depression, and suicidality have increased to unprecedented levels among younger people. …What Americans young and old are abandoning is not so much the promise of family, faith, and national pride, but the trust that America’s existing institutions can be relied on to provide for them.
In particular, Thompson looks to a recent paper on “The Tenuous Attachments of Working-Class Men,” whose authors conclude:
these men are pursuing goals that they are unlikely to achieve due to their lack of social integration. They must find their way without ties to steady work, stable families, and organized religion. Without social support, their chances of success diminish. Those who fail to achieve the autonomous, generative selves they crave will have little to fall back on and few people to prevent them from sinking into despair.
There seems to be a common diagnosis of our problem and its implications for people and society, though with a range of ideas on the underlying causes of the current disenchantment. How to rebuild social connections, institutions and trust—that is the greater challenge with less agreement.