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Thursday, February 01, 2007

No Pain, No Gain.

Teen sex and drug use leads to depression. That’s a fact established by several studies, most recently one out of UNC-Chapel Hill based on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. They found that the more sex and/or drug use young girls engaged in, the more likely they were to become depressed. Young men showed similar responses to these activities. Nearly one-third of American teens suffer from depression.

Combine this with another fact: the savings rate of American citizens has dropped to a 74 year low. Only four years in American history has seen a negative savings rate, two of them being 2005 and 2006, the other two being 1933 and 1934. Only 1933 had a savings rate worse than last year. We are spending more than we are making. The Baby Boomers are retiring and they have, in total, less and less money to retire on.

Now, consider a third fact: life-changing events cause people to shop. Advertisers are well aware of this. As Dr. Joseph Pilotta, vice president of Big Research, points out:

[Life events like marriage, divorce, having a baby, etc.] are disruptions in principle. These are transitional moments. You stabilize transitional events by trying to anchor yourself with things that make you secure. In our world, you concretely rearrange your life so you can see the change. For some empty-nesters, the only way they can manage that change is to move literally into another house to stabilize that transitional effect. We have a consumptive way of operating when it comes to these transitions, but they help stabilize our environment…

The funny part is that in getting married and getting divorced, four of the five items being purchased were the same. When getting married, we found the No. 1 thing that people looked for was furniture, which is not unexpected. Second was a vacation. Third was a computer, then TV, then home appliances. The computer is the new fixture with everybody. Anchoring the household now is essentially TV and computer, as opposed to TV being the centralizing feature. There was always a media that anchored the house and now we have two anchors. The computer was higher on the list than TV…

Getting married and getting divorced involved the same top four purchases. The only difference was number five: in marriage it was home appliances, and in divorce it was a digital camera. There was an interesting affinity between children starting college and retiring. The first four in order were vacation, computer, furniture, home improvement. It only varied on the fifth item, which was a new car when children started college and home appliances for retirement.”

From an economic perspective, all that a national economy needs to create a solid GDP is churn. If the citizens are in constant turmoil, constant life-changing events, they will buy stuff. If they are depressed, they will buy more.

So, from a standpoint of pure economics, from a standpoint of “how much money can Mr. Capitalist make today”, we don’t want stable marriages. People in a stable marriage save more money than single or divorced people. If they save their money, Mr. Capitalist can't get to it.

No, we want people who go through two, three, four or five marriages. We want people who are fornicating drug-users, we want people to have abortions, get raped, see their lives destroyed, re-built and destroyed again. Every time their life changes, our sales go up.

If you have ever wondered why any corporation would fund Planned Parenthood, throw money into no-fault divorce or create the kind of culture that we live in today, the answer is simple. Your pain is their gain. It really is that simple.


tpellman said...


The sex-vs-depression correlation in the data does not give a clear causal relationship sex,drugs --> depression. Don't you agree that the other way is just as plausible, that teens who are depressed (do to whatever cause) are more likely to engage in sex and drugs?

Correlated observational data can never, by itself, establish a causal direction. The only way to do that is with a more controlled experiment. Such as, if we observed that individual teens who were NOT depressed when starting drugs/sex were more likely to develop depression than chaste kids were.

Without that info, I think both causal directions are just as plausible. And it is probably both. Depression feeds the self-destructive behavior, which leads to further depression, and so on.

tpellman said...

I couldn't resist illustrating with another example.

I often hear that it is observed that couples who do not cohabit before marriage are much more likely to not divorce. That is, cohabiting before marriage is correlated with divorce. And we are left conclude cohabiting somehow encourages the factors which lead to divorce.

As a Catholic I cannot help but like the way that conclusion fits into my views of human nature and marriage. But I have to admit that there is probably a more likely explanation. That the sort of people who take marriage very seriously, do to their values and upbringing, are both (1) likely to not cohabit, and (2) likely not to divorce. The correlated results both have the same external common cause(s).


skellmeyer said...

Read the linked article. Because the UNC study used longitudinal data, they could see which events happened first and which events happened subsequently.

The sex and drugs came first, the depression came second.

As for your marriage-cohabitating example, by the very fact that someone refuses to cohabitate, they demonstrate the qualities that make for a lasting marriage, so the correlation is also causation.

Parish Member I said...

As for your marriage-cohabitating example, by the very fact that someone refuses to cohabitate, they demonstrate the qualities that make for a lasting marriage, so the correlation is also causation.

Steve, this is not causation.

If someome "demonstrates qualities" by doing an action (don't cohabitate in this case), and we believe those qualities are what causes the next action (no divorce), it would still be the qualities that create the causation, not the act itself. And of course these "qualities" are hypothetical without further data.

Just because one action comes before another and has correlation tells us nothing about what - if anything - causes what. For example, there is a strong correlation and order between birth and death - 100% of people (minus Enoch, Elijah, and Mary) that are born die, and birth always comes first. But being born is not the "cause" death.

Otherwise, good blog post.

skellmeyer said...

While your argument would hold in other instances, in this one it does not.

Personal qualities can be changed. The act of cohabiting can change the person so that s/he is now open to something s/he would not have been open to prior to the event, e.g., divorce.

This is, in fact, the way we are tempted into every sin. We know the good, we want to adhere to the good, but we do not do the good.

This is what it means to be a sacramental people - what we DO actually affects who we ARE.

So, while personal qualities may drive behaviour, personal qualities are also changed by behaviour. We aren't rocks or mixtures of chemicals, which is why the post hoc fallacy does not actually apply in this case.