Baby Boomers Killing Themselves At Highest Rate Ever

We’re killing ourselves.  The number of baby boomers committing suicide has almost doubled in the last 11 years.

“From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people, up from 13.7,” Tara Parker-Pope writes at The New York Times.

She notes that, although suicide rates are growing among both middle-aged men and women, far more men take their own lives – 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000.

Most at risk are men in their 50s, whose suicide rate doubled during this time period.  Experts believe it’s a combination of tough financial times and the availability of pain killers like Oxy Contin that people take to feel better.

And some think it’s greatly underreported.

“It is the baby boomer group where we see the highest rates of suicide,” the C.D.C.’s deputy director, Ileana Arias, told Parker-Pope. “There may be something about that group, and how they think about life issues and their life choices that may make a difference.”

Dr. Arias told Parker-Pope that the higher suicide rates “might be due to a series of life and financial circumstances that are unique to the baby boomer generation. Men and women in that age group are often coping with the stress of caring for aging parents while still providing financial and emotional support to adult children.”

But  Julie Phillips, an associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University who has published research on rising suicide rates, put her finger on what I believe is really behind it.   “The boomers had great expectations for what their life might look like, but I think perhaps it hasn’t panned out that way.”

I never reached my dream of becoming a great novelist, and my husband, a dentist, is miserable doing what he does.  And here we are, me at the threshold of 60 and him already past it, and realizing these dreams are never going to come true.

Fortunately, we have a good marriage and a child we adore, and that’ keeps us going. But I can understand people feeling desperate, especially with their job gone, house in foreclosure and their marriage on the rocks, as some of us have experienced.  It’s easy to want to give up.  But as long as you’re breathing, there’s always hope.


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