Naturally, the search is on for explanations. Such speculations, if often self-serving, are worth pondering if only because they unite our ahistorical generation with an ancient human tradition of wondering why, so often, as Ecclesiastes puts it, our "days are sorrows and our hearts taketh not rest in the night."
Inevitably, one prominent theory just now is political. A flurry of commentary has lately swirled around a 2022 study from Columbia epidemiologist Catherine Gimbrone and colleagues titled, "The politics of depression." Its headline finding, amid plentiful reports of general psychological distress of young Americans, is that young liberals are more depressed than their conservative peers — consistent with many studies showing a similar pattern at all ages.
The politics of depression study also shows that youthful unhappiness began to rise sharply about a decade ago, first among liberal youths, but also among conservative kids a few years later.
In general, unsurprisingly, progressives (including the study authors) have responded to this data with variations on the theory that liberals are grim because they see the true injustice of society clearly, while conservatives are cheerful because they are privileged, and can find little fault with a sociopolitical order that favors themselves. Conservatives understandably take a different view, detecting in liberals a debilitating blend of native utopianism and thirst for martyrdom that puts serenity out of reach (emphasis added).