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The Rising Tide of Global Sadness and Anger

Taylor Swift was quite the romantic when she burst on the scene in 2006. She sang about the ecstasies of young love and the heartbreak of it. But her mood has hardened as her star has risen. Her new album, Midnights, plays upon a string of negative emotions—anxiety, restlessness, exhaustion, and occasionally anger.

It turns out Swift is part of a larger trend. Researchers analyzed more than 150,000 pop songs released between 1965 and 2015. Over that time, the appearance of the word “love” in top-100 hits roughly halved. Meanwhile, the number of times such songs contained negative emotion words, like “hate,” rose sharply.

Pop music isn’t the only thing that has gotten a lot harsher. Other researchers analyzed 23 million headlines published between 2000 and 2019 in the United States. The headlines, too, grew significantly more negative, with a greater proportion of headlines denoting anger, fear, disgust, and sadness.

If misery levels keep rising, what can we expect in the future? According to the Global Peace Index, civic discontent—riots, strikes, anti-government demonstrations—increased by 244 percent from 2011 to 2019. We live in a world of widening emotional inequality. The emotional health of the world is shattering.

Possible Preaching Angle:

The only hope for our sad, harsh, and divided world is Jesus, the Prince of peace (Isa. 9:6). “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10).


David Brooks, “The Rising Tide of Global Sadness,” New York Times (10-27-22)

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