In recent weeks, researchers reported that Americans in midlife are a remarkably contented lot, and that they also have the highest rate of suicide. So what is going on? Is middle age the best of times or the worst?
First, she examines the studies that say middle-age is the happiest time of life, and the many theories about why that might be so. One such theory comes from a research project at the Institute on Aging at Univ. of Wis. – Madison:
From many points of view, midlife permits many of us to feel on top of the world, in control of our lives, and well enough pleased with what we have accomplished to seek new outlets of both self-expression and giving back to society some of what we have earned — and learned,” the study said. Researchers surmised that while stresses about money and children are at a peak, so are competence and a sense of mastery.
Okay, so the obvious next question is: if we’re so damn happy, why do we now have the highest suicide rate in America? According to Cohen’s article, it’s harder to get a definitive answer to that one:
Dr. LaVonne Ortega, a medical epidemiologist at the C.D.C., said in an interview that she was reluctant to speculate about the age shift since so little was known about the circumstances surrounding these deaths.
What we do know, Dr. Ortega said, is that the most common risk factors for suicide are mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and the loss of a job or partner. A sickly economy has been associated with a rise in suicide, although these most recent figures, from 2006 and 2007, are from before the depth of the recession.
So, possible factors for boomer suicide may be increased drug use – especially painkillers, higher incidence of depression, and the additional stress of caring for children and aging parents simultaneously.
All plausible theories, but we think one doctor quoted in the article strikes to the heart of the matter:
Dr. Eric C. Caine, co-director at the Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide at the University of Rochester Medical Center, agreed that the postwar generation was big enough to contain the happiest and the most desperate.
“Both can be true,” he said. “You can argue that at this time of life there is a lot of satisfaction, but this population is so large, you can still find those who don’t fit that profile.”
We’ve said it before here on bohemianboomer, you can’t always paint our generation with a wide brush. We admit there are instances when boomer trends are obvious, but most of the time we are just too big and too diverse to be so conveniently labeled. And this is simply one of those times.
But now what do you think? Is middle age the best of times or the worst of times? Offer your thoughts by clicking the Comments link below.