How to understand statistics that indicate the world is more peaceful than in the past?

by Chaitanya CharanOctober 26, 2015

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Answer Podcast:

Answer Summary:

1. Reality is not accurately reflected by highly publicised things, be they of violence and the world falling apart or of advancement and gadgets that promise to solve all problems. Seeing everything negatively and pessimistically is tamasic, whereas seeing everything with rose-tinted glasses is rajasic – neither are true. We need a sober, stattvika vision.

2. Past statistics about violence simply demonstrates that misery is a constant characteristic of the world.

3. Statistics about mental and social health indicate that many things are worse than before, as Bhagavatam  (1.1.10 upadrtah – disturbed) predicts

Consider some statistics from:

1. The American Paradox by David Myers and

2. The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies by Robert Lane
The data on our current “social recession” (Myers’ term) are familiar, but it is useful to have them fully and clearly set out in the two books under review. Since 1960, the divorce rate has doubled. Cohabitation is seven times more frequent. Four out of 10 ninth-graders and 7 out of 10 high-school seniors report having had sexual intercourse. The average age of first marriage for men has increased from 23 to 27 and for women from 20 to 25. Births to unmarried teens have quadrupled; births to all unmarried parents have sextupled. The proportion of children not living with two parents has tripled. The number of children living with a never-married mother has increased by a factor of 13. Forty percent of all children do not live with their biological fathers.

Hours per week parents spend with children has decreased by nearly half (30 to 17). The teenage suicide rate has tripled. The rate of violent crime has quadrupled; the rate of juvenile violent crime has septupled. Twelve million people, including 3 million teenagers, contract sexually transmitted diseases each year. Average television-watching hours per household have increased 40 percent; average SAT scores have declined 50 points. The proportion of survey respondents agreeing that “most people can be trusted” dropped 40%, while the number of those asserting that “you can’t be too careful in dealing with people” rose 50%. And although personal income has more than doubled, the proportion of Americans calling themselves “pretty well off financially” has dropped 40% and “very happy” has dropped 15%, while the incidence of depression is, depending on the estimate, three to ten times greater.

So far, just trends. But there are correlations in the data, too. Married people are happier and healthier than divorced or unmarried people. People are more likely to stay married if they are religious, well educated, grew up in a two-parent home, married after age 20, and married as virgins. Compared with married couples, cohabiting couples enjoy sex less, are more often unfaithful, and (if they eventually marry) are more likely to divorce.

And then there’s the root of (not all, but much) developmental evil: father-absence. Seven out of ten delinquents are from father-absent homes. Teenage boys from such homes are three times as likely to be incarcerated by age 30; for each additional year spent in a home without two parents, the risk of incarceration increases by 5%. Children from single-parent homes are more likely to be abused, to drop out of school, and (by a factor of five) to be poor. The presence of step-parents improves the numbers a little, but not much. Overall, the nonmarital birth rate predicts a society’s violent crime rate with striking accuracy.


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Chaitanya Charan

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