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Another casualty of the pandemic: our ability to worry about anything else

Image of a factory spewing pollution.

Enlarge / This looks worrisome, but I’ve got a pandemic to panic about. (credit: Gerhard Pettersson / EyeEm)

It’s safe to say that the first two years of the pandemic left a lot of people exhausted and emotionally drained. A new study suggests that the exhaustion showed a reduced ability to care about other global problems.

The work relied on surveying all English-language Twitter for tweets related to climate change both before and during the pandemic. The researchers involved found that the number of climate-related tweets dropped roughly in proportion to rising COVID-19 cases, and that the remaining tweets tended to be more optimistic than those in pre-pandemic times. Overall, this suggests that the pandemic taxed what some behavioral scientists call our “finite pool of worry.”

In the deep end

The idea of a finite pool of worry is probably pretty intuitive to most of us. Worrying about something takes a toll on us emotionally, and that toll comes from a finite pool of emotional reserves. Once those reserves are depleted, we actually couldn’t care less—we lose the ability to worry about things that we would otherwise find concerning. That’s not to say that we’d say they’re not worrying if we were asked—we just aren’t likely to spontaneously expend attention on them.

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Source: Another casualty of the pandemic: our ability to worry about anything else

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