One of the major health issues affecting aging men has nothing to do with cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, or any of the usual suspects you hear so much about. It’s something many deal with privately until it’s too late.
A troubling trend has emerged in the past decade that’s affecting male baby boomers: they’re killing themselves at an alarming rate. Numbers released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show a surprising spike in suicide rates amongst middle-aged men. Between 1999 and 2010, male baby boomer suicide rates went up nearly 50%, to 30 per 100,000 people.
This information is bound to turn some heads in the medical community, as it appears men are having a very difficult time coping with life as they age. There is a combination of factors worth considering like social isolation, shrinking opportunity, and the likelihood that life may not be turning out as they’ve envisioned.
Male baby boomers have a unique life experience that’s been highlighted by times of endless possibility and opportunity. The problem, it seems, is times have changed and many of the opportunities and truths this cohort grew up with are no longer available. Coping with this reality has proven very difficult.
Some contend the spike in suicides is a result of the economic downturn in 2008; however; the numbers reflect something much deeper. After all, rates started rising nearly a decade prior to the recession.
The reason appears to be rooted in the ideals instilled in the upbringing of the boomers. This generation focused on youth and freedom, while having the opportunity to do as they wished. Roles were less defined, personal freedom and choice were put at a premium, and people had the ability to do what they want, when they wanted. As such, divorce rates, alcohol, drug use and other diseases associated with emphasis on pleasure-like obesity-are far higher among boomers than other generations.
The inability of being able to accept the realities of aging and the changing world around them seems to be adding insurmountable stress. These men now find themselves questioning their worth and the purpose of their lives. They may also be realizing they might never experience the security their parents had.
This is a difficult transition because the life these men knew no longer exists. Opportunities are limited and they may come to the conclusion that their best days are long behind them. The world has changed and they’re not sure how, or if, they fit.
Combatting depression and lowering suicide risk starts with mental health and building relationships. If you’re concerned about your own mental health or if you think you have an at-risk loved one, look for people to talk to. Seeking a therapist, family member, or good friend can be a great place to start. The more meaningful connections you can make, the better.
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