What’s ahead for 2009? Futurists are making the following predictions: Anxiety and depression will threaten Americans’ mental health, the US will pull out of Iraq, 100 more banks will fail and healthy eating will fall by the wayside. Keep reading for details.

Psychologist Martha Crowther predicts that Americans will cope with the recession in both healthy and unhealthy ways. She thinks that anxiety and depression will threaten Americans’ mental health in 2009 as the recession progresses and says, “With the uncertain job market and stock market, without question the recession is impacting most people. I think, depending on individual life factors, it will causepeople to have increasing anxiety or depression. I think we’ll definitely see more people getting therapy, but we’ll also see more people coping in other ways. Some of that may be alcohol or drugs?prescription or non-prescription, legal or illegal. But you may see some positive coping as well. People may actually step back and readjust their lives. What families do together may change. They may move from people doing lots of individual things and spending a lot of money to actually increasing quality time.”

Economist Kristy Reynolds predicts that the nation’s retailing picture won’t improve through most of 2009. She expects consumers to curtail discretionary spending and put a greater emphasis on quality and maximizing value. She also expects declines in product areas in which consumers can delay purchases, such as some appliances and clothing. She says, ?I think those retailers that over the years have come to be recognized as offering products that last will have a better chance of surviving through the faltering economy.”

Political scientist David Lanoue predicts that the first 100 days will be key to the Obama presidency and says that we should look for him to pursue his electoral mandate to fix the economy and health care in 2009 in a historic moment nearly comparable to the beginning of the Roosevelt administration in 1933, after the last depression. He says, “The first thing Obama is going to do is make moves to make sure people know something’s happening.”

Legal expert David Forde predicts that prisoners may be released as federal and state governments face critical funding decisions. In fact, states like Alabama may be forced to choose between funding the prison system or schools. He says, “The economy is going to force this issue to the forefront. Either you provide the money to the correctional system, or you continue to let it grow and take the money from somebody else. And that somebody else will be schools.”

Funding issues could result in early release for some prisoners, according to Forde, who sees officials re-evaluating sentencing guidelines with an eye toward releasing the least dangerous prisoners. Economist James E. Cashman predicts that, bailout or not, the US auto industry will change in 2009, and will go about the business of re-inventing itself, which may be to the benefit of the consumer.Engineer Peter Clark predicts that oil prices will stay low for 2009, after a year in which oil prices fluctuated from record highs to the lowest prices in the last five years. He says,?If the economy does not rebound quickly in 2009, oil prices should remain in the fifty dollar a barrel range, which will result in gasoline prices around a dollar and a half pergallon. A rational energy policy that emphasizes, conservation, alternative fuels, and domestic production will help to moderate the increase in the price of oil.”

Economist Benton Gup expects a hundred more banks expected to fail, but the average American probably won’t feel too many direct effects. He syas, “The deposits and loans of the failed institutions are taken over by another bank, and it is almost like business as usual for depositorsand most borrowers [but] those who have delinquent mortgage loans face some challenges.”

Political scientist Douglas Gibler predicts that the US willpull out of Iraq and increase troops in Afghanistan. He says, “My best guess is that Obama will quickly become frustrated with domestic policy. It’s going to be very difficult to get his policies through Congress. But, because of his rhetorical appeal, because of the importance of issues like Iraq and Afghanistan, I think you?re going to see much more of a focus on foreign policy, because presidents want to be known for doing something.”

Librarian Jamie Campbell Naidoo predicts that multi-platform books, fantasy to hold kids’ attention, interactive books that use Web pages and CDs to help tell their stories and keep kids guessing will all continue to hold children’s and young adults’ attention in the coming year. He says, “In the future and especially in 2009, the books that are popular will be much more interactive between the reader and the book.” The coming year will also see a continued increase in literature aimed at young Hispanic readers as well as Spanish or multilingual material.

What about fashion? Designer Brian Taylor predicts more figure-flattering cuts, belts and dresses that emphasize the waist will replace bulky tops, as fashion trends move away from the focus on volume of the last few seasons. He says, “You can expect to see a lot of fitted silhouettes.”

Fashion watchers are also keeping an eye on Michelle Obama. Taylor says, “She?s a smart professional who puts thought into what she wears. I think a lot of women have been looking for someone to cling to, and she has a classic style that they like.”

Sociologist Jason Edward Black predicts that Obama’s first year will bring open, frank dialogue about racial and ethnic diversity. He says, “The historic election of the nation?s first African-American president?along with his selection of a culturally diverse cabinet including Bill Richardson (Latino), Eric Holder (African-American), and Eric Shinseki (Japanese-American)?will bring race and ethnicity as a socio-political subject to the fore of the American public?s consciousness.”

Older Americans won’t fare so well. Aging expert Patricia Parmelee predicts that a lack of funding will lead to a health care crisis for older adults. She says, “Thanks to the ‘graying of America,’ both nursing homes and home health agencies are facing increasing demand for services. However, the federal funding that supports long-term care services is not keeping pace with this demand. Access to long-term care services may become more limited, and efforts to recoup nursing home costs from families of Medicaid recipients will become more common. The burden of these changes will fall disproportionately on families, who will shoulder an even greater responsibility for care of frail, older Americans.”

Health care expert Marilyn Whitman agrees and predicts that Americans can look for serious problems in Medicare, Medicaid and prescription prices. While the bailout of the banks and the Big Three automakers is taking center stage in the nation?s economic crisis, the three-headed health care issue?Medicaid, Medicare and drug prices?could hit American consumers even harder next year. She says, “President-elect Obama has proposed reducing the cost of health care by investing in electronic health records, disease prevention, and coordination of care and providing affordable coverage to all Americans but, given the economic downturn and recent confirmation of a recession, the plan to expand coverage may be delayed.” Whitman says 2009 may bring the largest number ever of people who don?t have health insurance.

Political expert Janis Edwards predicts that more women will seek high-profile political roles. While another chance at the White House may not be in line for Sarah Palin, Edwards believes Palin?s popularity, both during and after theelection, will inspire other women to seek office.

Biologist Kim Caldwell predicts that the 2001 ban on federally funded researchers conducting embryonic stem cell research will be lifted in the coming year, but overall funding for this and other scientific research will remain historically low. And educator Marcia Rock predicts thatducation issues will have to wait on an improvement in the economy.

Finally, a likely casualty of the economic slump will be and end to healthy eating. Nutritionist Ralph Lane says, “?Consumers may attempt to contain food costs by purchasing more pastas, potatoes and rice rather than meats, poultry and vegetables since these items are inexpensive and filling. On the brighter side, vegetable gardening has increased in popularity, recently, and will probably continue since produce may be grown for a fraction of the cost in food stores ?”

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

In 2009, we’ll have Dreamland reports by TWO different futurists?John Petersen and our resident prophet, John Hogue. On Dec. 31 you’ll get to chat with Dannion Brinkley and on Feb. 7 with John Hogue. Don’t miss the excitement: Subscribe today!

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