The power-dispersed, G-Zero world; State of economy pointer to length of joblessness; The anti-depressant generation

1 The power-dispersed, G-Zero world (Maleeha Lodhi in Khaleej Times) The crisis over Ukraine has provided a fresh opportunity to President Barack Obama’s domestic detractors to assail him for ‘failing to lead’ and to deploy American power to force the Russian President to retreat. Much of this criticism shows willful ignorance of the limits of US power in a transformed international environment where no single state is able achieve outcomes or prevail over others, even by using overwhelming hard power.

Those ascribing the erosion of US global influence simply to Obama’s lack of leadership seemed to miss a fundamental point – that the world has changed in very significant ways with America’s unipolar moment having long passed into history. The redistribution of global power has been one of the most consequential developments of this century. Some have characterised this as a G-Zero world, in which no nation on its own or with others can deploy enough power to secure global outcomes or determine the rules of the game.

The dispersal of power and shift in global power from the West to the Rest has resulted in a more complex international landscape in which no country is able to call the shots or impose its will. Although the US remains the world’s dominant power, it is also constrained by an increasingly decentralised international system and the emergence of multipolarity. This means the US has to work with other nations and build coalitions to promote its goals. It is the limits on American power imposed by a transformed world that is shaping Obama’s conduct – as well as urging other Western nations to take a cautious approach, relying on diplomacy to avert a bigger crisis over Ukraine.

2 State of economy pointer to unemployment length (Julie Balise in San Francisco Chronicle) Length of employment and level of education don’t really matter. The state of the economy is the biggest factor in determining how long workers remain unemployed, according to a report from FiveThirtyEight.

The report by Ben Casselman looked at a variety of characteristics, including age, sex, race, marital status, education, and occupation, for trends among people who have been unemployed for a year or longer. Some made a bit of a difference. Men, black workers, and older workers are more likely to be long-term unemployed than women, white workers, and younger workers, according to the report. The timing of the termination has the biggest impact, with a weak economy significantly increasing the likelihood of long-term unemployment.

The report assumes that people who become long-term unemployed can’t find new jobs. Casselman notes that some economists believe extending unemployment benefits can contribute to longer unemployment because people have financial support while being more selective. That does not appear to be the case, though, as people who did not receive benefits are more likely to be long-term unemployed, according to Casselman’s research.

3 The anti-depressant generation (Doris Iarovici in The New York Times) Antidepressants are an excellent treatment for depression and anxiety. But a growing number of young adults are taking psychiatric medicines for longer and longer periods, at the very age when they are also consolidating their identities, making plans for the future and navigating adult relationships.

Are we using good scientific evidence to make decisions about keeping these young people on antidepressants? Or are we inadvertently teaching future generations to view themselves as too fragile to cope with the adversity that life invariably brings? Professional guidelines recommend six to nine months of medicine for first episodes of depression. When I recommend to my patients that they come off antidepressants, I encourage them to choose a relatively transition-free time in their lives, so that we don’t mistake what might be a normal reaction to a stressful situation for symptoms of recurrent depression. But because I work with university students, it’s close to impossible to find such a time.

Growing numbers of young people experience rapidly changing living situations, classes, jobs and relationships only while taking an antidepressant. Major depression in adults is often recurrent: half of people with first episodes will have a second episode. Children and adolescents increasingly take antidepressants. In 2009, a large trial showed that those who took an antidepressant in conjunction with therapy for nine months were much less depressed, and less suicidal, in the year after stopping treatment than those without treatment — so clearly treatment is critical. But for how long? And is medicine on its own, without therapy, sufficient?

We walk a thinning line between diagnosing illness and teaching our youth to view any emotional upset as pathological. We need a greater focus on building resilience in emerging adults. We need more scientific studies — spanning years, not months — on the risks and benefits of maintenance treatment in emerging adults.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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