Email of the day - on mental health
Comment of the Day

December 08 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on mental health

Regarding your comments on the mail about fake news: I would like to point out that your very sound and accurate analysis of the situation this year has helped me tremendously with my investments AND it has helped my mental health a lot. For both of these I am most grateful for your services. please do keep up the good work.

Eoin Treacy's view

Thank you for your kind words. Mental health is a topic that is personal to all of us but tends to be sensationalised when it is made public. Personally, I have gone through multiple stages of surprise, hope and anger over the last year. That has been as much a reaction to the market as to the ineptitude of the official response in most countries. Many years in the financial business have conditioned me to equate despair in others as a buying opportunity. Despair in myself is usually a sign my position is too large and by opinion was incorrect.

My weight has been fluctuating inversely to injuries I picked up doing YouTube workouts and playing tennis badly, but my overall fitness is better than it has been in years. I count is as a blessing that I have been able to keep active by spending a great deal of time outdoors. Working remotely at the beach over the summer, while my daughters did fencing workouts on the sand, was a particular high point for the year.  

Seasoned investors and traders are probably better conditioned to handle the uncertainties thrown at us on occasion. My biggest worry has been my eldest daughter. She moved schools in progressing to high school and has only been to campus a handful of times. Without regular access to her normal friends’ group, she has been particularly negatively affected by the lockdowns. She has been prone to some very dark thoughts this year and it has been a constant battle to improve her sense of self-worth.

The toll taken on young people from lockdowns is not limited to my children. The childhood experience today is much more emotionally visceral than it was when I was a child. Most of my challenges as a child were physical. Most of the challenges facing children today are psychological. That is particularly true for teenagers as they become active on social media.

Interestingly my younger daughter was becoming rather popular on TikTok before the lockdowns and amassed 8000 followers in a couple of months. Then she was shadow banned. That usually occurs because you have infringed some unwritten rule for the algorithm or openly criticised China. She could not figure out why her posts were no longer showing up and it caused a great deal of distress. She soon got over it and for a 12-year-old has a much more mature attitude towards social media as a result of her experience, than people twice her age.

If we really want to think about the long-term effects of the pandemic, I still believe we have a lot of pent-up demand which should fuel consumption in coming years. However, the experience of young people with overarching government is likely to make for young voters who are very sceptical of politicians in a few years’ time. 

This report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York examining correlations between the aftermath of the Spanish Flu and support for extreme political ideology in Germany may be of interest. Here is a section from the conclusion:

Evidence suggests that the deaths brought about by the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 may have shaped German society going forward. Regional variation in influenza mortality was related to subsequent city spending on various amenities for its population. Cities that saw a greater share of their population die due to influenza spent less, per-capita, going forward. Perhaps more importantly, influenza deaths themselves are correlated with the share of votes won by extremists, specifically the extremist National Socialist party. This effect dominates many other effects and is persistent even when controlling for the influences of local unemployment, city spending, population changes brought about by the war, and local demographics, or when instrumenting for influenza mortality.

The results are possibly a consequence of changes in societal preferences following a pandemic. In particular, the pandemic may have interacted with existing deep seated anti-semitism/anti-outsider sentiment, which was further fed by national socialist propaganda that linked diseases to minorities. Given a number of econometric challenges, care must be taken in the interpretation of the results. Nevertheless, this study offers a novel contribution to the discussion surrounding the long-term effects of pandemics.

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