Eric writes: My personal guess (and I think there’s some preliminary evidence pointing to it) is that every person has a personal “worry budget” that will be fully “spent” regardless of the actual level of threat to oneself.
We’re now living in one of the safest times ever, meaning we have fewer and lesser major threats to worry about. But because of those worry budgets, we now spend the same time and effort worrying about minor threats (or mere inconveniences) that we used to spend worrying about major ones.
Someone summed it up as “working class black parents worry about their kids getting shot. Upper middle class white parents worry about their kids getting their shots.” When you have lots of realistic things to worry about, you can’t afford to indulge in worry about remote hypothetical risks like supposed vaccine-autism connections.
Of course there are other factors, like media sensationalism (there’s a strong negative correlation between crime coverage and actual crime rates) and various vested interests that benefit from a scared population, but I think the “worry budget” is what enables them.