Why Are More Boomers Killing Themselves?

On online message boards, middle-aged white folks puzzle over why they're the new high-risk group.

White Baby Boomers are killing themselves in greater numbers, sending America’s suicide rate spiraling upward for the first time since the late 1990s, according to a study released yesterday.

The American Journal of Preventative Medicine reveals that each year between 1999 and 2005, the suicide rate lept by 3.9 percent among white women aged 40 to 64, and by 2.7 percent among white men in the same age group—increases of 35 and 33 percent, respectively. Suicide in other groups decreased or remained steady, prompting one of the study’s co-authors to label middle-aged whites “a new high-risk group.”

I am now becoming one of the invisible people and know that 3 weeks from now I have to walk out this front door and just keep on walking.

Why are Boomers taking their lives? The news reports cite several possibilities: deteriorating access to mental health care, higher rates of prescription drug use, and more reluctance among women to undergo hormone replacement therapy during menopause. But online, in feedback sections and message boards, many Boomers have their own theories: outsourced jobs, too much atheism, piling debt, and being forced to care for their elderly parents. Here are a few of their reactions to the study, culled from various online forums.

Posted by: American | Oct 21, 2008 3:34:10 AM

I have been considering suicide for the last 4 years. Each time I get closer to it, but pull back because I fear for what I would be leaving my wife. I don't have any savings and no retirement. I have tried repeatedly to get a job with the State, where I only need 2 years to vest, but to no avail. I'm 56 years old and have been a lawyer for 25+ years. Great experience in the real world. I don't believe there is a god and if there is one, it has completely forgotten us (but again, my scientific mind makes it impossible for me to believe that there is a god.) This country is going to vote for another Republican president (and stooge VP) and we'll have 4 + years of fighting and higher deficits. There's no point.

Posted by: Anonymous | Oct 21, 2008 8:37:44 PM

I am 40 white college educated cube dwelling male. I feel that no one is concerned about me. The GOP bails out the ultra rich, the Dems bail out the poor. The corporation that I give my creativity and passion wants to down size me and ship my job to India or China.

I try and do the right things (pay my taxes, live within my means, support my family, save for retirement, protect the environment, work out and eat healthy) but the bail out nation we live in will take from me and give to the irresponsible sooner or later. When they do it it will be in the name of "fairness"

There are groups to protect women's rights, black's rights, hispanics rights, immigrants rights, homosexual rights, etc. Groups made up of white guys are considered racist. The policies of our government and the politically correct society are a constant weight on my shoulders crushing me into the ground and I have no hope for the future.

I am not suicidal. But when my world I have worked so hard to create comes crashing down, I wouldn't be surprised if that changed.

Posted by: JOE | Oct 21, 2008 11:37:18 AM

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!

Daily Digest

Start and finish your day with the top stories from The Daily Beast.

Cheat Sheet

A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know (and nothing you don't).

By clicking “Subscribe,” you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason.

I mean no disrespect, but I would think a high-tech economy that blurs the lines between work and home life can have an adverse impact. Unfortunately, the American economy is quiet simply becoming so competitive it is morphing into a mental health crisis. Many of the low-stress jobs Americans could rely on in the 50s' and 60s' left the American economy a long time ago and we're starting to pay the price so many years later. Drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and an assortment of mental health disorders are related to a high-stress lifestyle.

Posted by: Ella | Oct 21, 2008 12:12:28 PM

Perhaps the reason for the immense depression is the fact that these men and women have worked their butts off, and for what? For the government to steal money from you and give it to others, for saving all your money and then losing it, for struggling to pay for your kids to go to college because they don't belong to a special interest group where they can get a scholarship or loan? For being brow-beaten because they are perceived as "rich", for entering professions which were once respected and then being verbally abused by jealous non-achievers? For constantly being told by the media that those who earn a decent living are the common man's enemy, and that driving a BMW or Mercedes equals beating seals to death or drowning babies? You're supposed to carry the responsiblity, but are not supposed to be rewarded. What IS the point of living?

Posted by: mset | Oct 21, 2008 12:40:27 PM

Don't overlook the effect that elderly parents have on their middle-aged children. With the elderly insisting they will finish their lives at home, blithely assuming their children will be their "assisted living" staff, it's a draining burden. As life expectancy increases, a middle-aged person can expect to become a caretaker for a senior who becomes increasingly debilitated and demanding.

Throw in one or two adult children who return home due to economic distress (no matter how considerate they try to be) and it's a recipe for stress and despair.

Being an empty-nester is becoming a thing of the past. Sometimes I think we should consider rationing medical benefits after age 75 so we can leave a little Social Security for the next generation.

Posted by: HWILL2000 | 11:02 PM Oct 22 2008

I think that society is a part of the reason for women (in general) getting depressed and despondant. I have been single for 4 years now (I'm 41) and find that men my age want someone who is a Barbie doll. (even if they nowhere near resemble Ken). I also have chemical depression and have been on the edge of suicide more times than I can count. So for those who just don't get it...........you never will

Posted by: Marcygirl | 10:00 AM Oct 21 2008

…Even though I worked since I was 14, it wasn't at the same job and have no retirement, so I was forced to realize that I'd probably have to work until I die. And that was doable until I got caught in the economic crash and not only lost my home, but my job was in real estate and I lost my job. Then I hit a brick wall with medical issues and, now, at 58 years old I'm 3 weeks away from being evicted from my rental, with no place to go, a state, county, and federal system that has no suggestions for people like me and the only answers I receive are "I don't know, we have senior housing, but there's a 2 year waiting list". I am now becoming one of the invisible people and know that 3 weeks from now I have to walk out this front door and just keep on walking.

Posted by: Zelda 568 | 11:04 AM Oct 21 2008

I work in healthcare, and I see on many charts of women raising children lists of antidepressants and antianxiety meds. My observation is that a high percentage of these women are college educated but they have chosen to stay at home with kids. Working moms and women without kids dont seem to be taking these meds to the same degree.

Posted by: Raejeanowl | 12:33 PM Oct 21 2008

Whatever you think is middle-aged, I believe the entire score between 40-60 is a dangerous time for women. You are likely to still have child-rearing responsibilities while starting to assume caregiver duties for elders. You will be transitioning through menopause and you will have all of the health, sexual and cosmetic issues related to aging. Younger people will begin to ignore you or dismiss you (act like you are nonexistent). Your partner may begin to have health and sexual issues. And at work, the newly minted graduates are chomping at the bit for your job, willing to do it for much less, and resist the suggestion that they may need to learn more.Other than that, what's to be depressed about? As it's been said, gettin' old ain't for sissies.

Posted by: KPPGGA | 05:36 PM Oct 21 2008

I'm 55, been unemployed for over a year, have used up my savings and have to depend on my sister to help me out. I can't even get a job at Home Depot. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about doing away with myself. I have a lot to offer an employer, hard worker, dedicated, but no one will even give me a chance.

Posted by: LowBug | 02:42 PM Oct 21 2008

Once my duties as the doting daughter are complete, I will return to my home 400 miles away, darken every window, stock up on my wine, resume smoking and let nature runs its course, hoping Death won't be long coming for me to rejoin my late husband. He was my sanctuary, my harbor in the storm. His strength made me safe from this world and now, this world is a stranger to me.

Posted by: evelyna13a3 | 09:22 AMOct 21 2008

But middle aged men are very close to women in the suicide numbers. The older men cannot get younger women unless they have drugs and money. I think it has to do more with limited job opportunities and such. People get tired of applying for menial jobs and the changes. Tired of dealing with the health care system etc. Women do not feel discarded unless they allow themselves to be treated this way. The system makes it hard for people and I think people should not go so easy but suck more out of the system.

Posted by: TOberg6188 | 10:10 AMOct 21 2008

evelyna13a3, I so agree with you. You work hard all of your life and succeed in a career only to have it somehow eliminated by the economy, then go look for a job. The young people who interview us almost snarl at our age. We are "way old" in their opinion, and cannot not possibly be open minded, ready to learn, be void of a know it all attitude. Over and over again, my husband and I have not been given a chance to perform, and it is depressing. We even considered a double suicide when we couldn't make our house payments. We knew we would be better off dead than alive. Thank GOD we didn't do it. But this society where young placement and HR workers discriminate and therefore eliminate is pervasive and it is a big factor in us middle aged people's depression. (Compound that with our age related medical factors - try dealing with menopause and erectile dysfunction through all of this).

Posted by: Jamcarr3 | 02:14 PMOct 21 2008

i as male have the thoughts i lost my soul mate of over 30 years to cancer 3 years ago and hardly a day goes by that i do not think about it thanks to no pay life insurance companies and crooked banks whom could care less and washington whom does nothing. grand canyon keeps looking better all the time at least i would be with real animals.

Posted by: Sue Leitner | October 22, 2008 1:06 AM

Here’s a focus group of one:

I am 52 years old, with a 30-year history of depression and chronic pain (I was diagnosed with severe fibromyalgia in 1988, the year after they came up with that diagnosis), and a 25-year history of managing pretty well despite all that.

As I become increasingly no longer a cute young thing, and no longer have the sheer energy to overcome the pain, I find myself increasingly unemployable. I am not employable, in large part, because my health issues make me uninsurable.

I have been recently diagnosed with narrow angle glaucoma in both eyes. That will cost $1,000 plus 20% of God knows what price. I need to have two dental crowns replaced, which will cost me another $1,000. I cannot concentrate long enough to write a blog post. I lock my keys in my car, do not recognize the faces of people I spent several hours with a few days earlier, and have left my purse in shopping carts twice in the past six months. I am scheduled for neuropsychological testing that will cost $2,600, and is likely going to be dismissed by my health insurance company as "investigative or experimental."

If my body were a car, I would not bother trying to get any trade-in value on a new one (although I have made arrangements to salvage anything useful when I do go.) If I were a family pet in this condititon, I would euthanise the pet.

I am 52, far, far, away from Medicare or the ability to retire. I applied for Social Security Disability over a year ago, was refused and am waiting for an appeal. Any work that I am able to find weakens that appeal.

I am at the point where, each day, I ask myself how much longer I am going to withstand the pain, and whether I should burden my family with the knowledge that I am seriously considering suicide so that I don't burden them with overwhelming medical expenses. That knowledge would set off a whole new cascade of medical expenses.

If I do commit suicide, it will be a great surprise to many, because I look pretty normal.

Posted by: A deadbeat dad | October 22, 2008 1:40 AM

To those of us in this demographic, the answer is simple.

For men, the biggest factor in disabling depression and suicide is divorce. The laws surrounding divorce, child support and taxes are a crushing emotional & financial burden. Most men finds themselves cut off from their kids, and thrown 2 steps down the economic ladder.

This is not rocket science, and the causes result from really callous public policy, where parasites in the bureaucracy and legal fields are profiting at the expense of people's lives.