Suicide Rate Rising Sharply Among Boomers. Hmm. Wonder Why?

Do you suppose the increase in suicides might have something to do with the economy -- and an entire group's abandonment by the political elite?

Yes, losing your job, your house, your life savings, your health insurance and any semblance of economic security might have something to do with it. Ya think? I've spent more time in the past five years talking friends off the ledge:

Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.

More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings in Friday’s issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides.

Suicide has typically been viewed as a problem of teenagers and the elderly, and the surge in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans is surprising.

Surprising to whom? The well-paid denizens of the Village's New York chapter?

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. Although suicide rates are growing among both middle-aged men and women, far more men take their own lives. The suicide rate for middle-aged men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000.

The most pronounced increases were seen among men in their 50s, a group in which suicide rates jumped by nearly 50 percent, to about 30 per 100,000. For women, the largest increase was seen in those ages 60 to 64, among whom rates increased by nearly 60 percent, to 7.0 per 100,000.

Suicide rates can be difficult to interpret because of variations in the way local officials report causes of death. But C.D.C. and academic researchers said they were confident that the data documented an actual increase in deaths by suicide and not a statistical anomaly. While reporting of suicides is not always consistent around the country, the current numbers are, if anything, too low.

“It’s vastly underreported,” said Julie Phillips, an associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University who has published research on rising suicide rates. “We know we’re not counting all suicides.”

The reasons for suicide are often complex, and officials and researchers acknowledge that no one can explain with certainty what is behind the rise. But C.D.C. officials cited a number of possible explanations, including that as adolescents people in this generation also posted higher rates of suicide compared with other cohorts.

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

It's the people who followed the rules and were doing well who are in the worst emotional shape. These are folks who believed if they always did the right thing, the responsible thing, nothing bad would ever happen to them. Someone like me, who's weathered economic extremes for decades, is better emotionally-prepared for the arbitrary turns of the economic wheel. I already know how to be poor and get by; they don't. If you're used to feeling secure, it's a terrible shock to the system to learn you have nothing left to lean on.

And then we have the political abandonment of this entire cohort, the long-term unemployed. (Remember "jobs, jobs, jobs"?) The 99ers were hung out to dry, and the politicians said there was "no political will" to do anything about them -- which is Beltway-ese for "They're not our donors." Our politicians are much more willing to fight for guns than people.

The rise in suicides may also stem from the economic downturn over the past decade. Historically, suicide rates rise during times of financial stress and economic setbacks. “The increase does coincide with a decrease in financial standing for a lot of families over the same time period,” Dr. Arias said.

What, baby boomers are somehow inherently suicidal? They're just so self-centered and childish, of course they throw the ultimate tantrum when they can't get their own way?

Or not. Maybe they're just human fucking beings whose lives have been ruined by the lawless actions of the Wall Street elite, enabled by the austerity fever dreams of the media elite. Chew on that one, New York Times.

NOTE: If you are thinking of harming yourself or ending your life, please don't. Get help.

1-800-273-8255 is the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

It's worth it to call, and your call is completely confidential. You matter. Please make the call.

About Susie Madrak

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