By Meghan Harper, on 13 June 2010
Today’s lecture on paranoia actually left me feeling a lot less worried about what’s going on in the world. Psychologist Daniel Freeman really put my mind at ease, discussing how paranoid we have become as a society, and some of the societal causes of paranoia. Previously in history, paranoia had occurred only in those where were severely mentally disturbed and now it is incredibly common across society. High anxiety, worry, mistrust, past incidents, and according to some new research, insomnia all put us at a higher risk of developing paranoid thoughts.
However, the way the media reports stories to the public also is a huge contributor to the problem. For example, each year approximately 140,000 people die of cancer, while about 700 people are murdered. The comparatively smaller statistic on murder receivers twice as many mentions as cancer, leading society to misinterpret what the more probable threat to our lives may be. Paranoia itself may be a a threat to our health; a study from the States indicates that when mistrust is up 10% there is also an 8% rise in mortality.
People who live in urban areas are twice as likely to be paranoid, and our chair mentioned that in the last century people had retreated to spa towns like Cheltenham in order to ‘get away from it all’ and relax. I can definitely vouch that although the Science Festival has kept me plenty busy this week, just being out of London has been relaxing. Looks like the Cheltenham Science Festival is doing my brain good in more ways than one!