-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Jan. 9, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- "It was the best of
times, it was the worst of times," Dickens wrote in 1859.
And books often reflect the difficulties faced by people during
tough economic periods, a new study shows.
Researchers examined 5 million English-language books from the
20th century and found that the frequency of words expressing
misery and unhappiness was higher if there were difficult economic
conditions in the 10 years before a book was written.
"When we looked at millions of books published in English every year and looked for a specific category of words denoting unhappiness, we found that those words in aggregate averaged the authors' economic experiences over the past decade. In other words, global economics is part of the shared emotional experience of the 20th century," study author Alex Bentley, of the University of Bristol in England, said in a university news release.
While some periods, such as the 1980s, were clearly marked by
"literary misery," books from other periods were more upbeat.
"Economic misery coincides with WWI (1918), the aftermath of the Great Depression (1935) and the energy crisis (1975)," study co-author Alberto Acerbi said in the news release. "But in each case, the literary response lags by about a decade, such that authors are averaging experiences over that decade."
Bentley suggested that "perhaps this 'decade effect' reflects
the gap between childhood, when strong memories are formed, and
early adulthood, when authors may begin writing books."
He added, "consider for example, the dramatic increase of
literary misery in the 1980s, which follows the 'stagflation' of
the 1970s. Children from this generation who became authors would
have begun writing in the 1980s."
The researchers also analyzed books written in German and found
the same results.
The study was published Jan. 8 in the journal
The American Psychological Association explains how to
manage stress during tough economic times.
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