Behavior: Is The Country in a Depression?

When the economy slumps, so does the national psyche

As unemployment climbs, inflation rises and the economy lurches toward an expected slump, economists issue dire warnings about "recessionary psychology" -- a pattern of cuts in consumer spending and investment that tends to feed the downward spiral and make any economic falloff even deeper. But there is another, more profound kind of recessionary psychology. It is measured by psychic indicators rather than economic ones. As people change their behavior in the face of layoffs, cutbacks or a sudden drop in net worth, more and more Americans find themselves clinically depressed.

This year the symptoms are most apparent in those parts of...

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