Why Are More Baby Boomers Taking Their Own Lives?

Suicide rates rose in the past decade in the U.S. and, to the consternation of public health officials, the most among those in middle age. Suicide has been “typically viewed” as a problem among teenagers and the elderly but the new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that, among those aged 35 to 64, the suicide rate has gone up by nearly 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

Americans are now more likely to die at their own hand by suffocating, poisoning or firearms than from a car accident. In 2010, there were 38,364 suicides vs. 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes.

Suicide has also occurred in far more men than women: the suicide rate for middle-aged American males was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000 for women.

There was a “small increase” in suicides among teenagers and a “small decline” among elderly individuals. But the rise in suicides among the baby boomer generation and among whites in particular — the suicide rate for middle-age blacks and Hispanics remained consistent — stood out in the CDC’s findings. The suicide rate for middle-aged whites has gone up by 40 percent.

CDC researchers highlighted the economic downturn as a possible contributing factor. Higher suicide rates have been recorded in earlier periods of economic hardship. Suicide rates have significantly increased in Europe, where economists predict the recession to continue and recent data show that Germany’s economy is now contracting as have those of France, Italy and Spain.

Why the Rise in Suicide Rates Among Baby Boomers?

The U.S.’s baby boomer generation already had an “unusually high suicide rate” as adolescents. The CDC report cites job loss as a factor as well as the increased availability of prescription opioids. It also highlights the double demand that has fallen on many in middle age, caring for elderly parents while still supporting older children who, also due to the economic downturn, have struggled to find jobs, with many still living with their parents.

study published last fall found that life expectancy for baby boomers aged 57 to 61 who lose their jobs and their health insurance could be decreased by as much as three years. Could the baby boomers turn out to be the greatest victims of the Great Recession?

Of this generation, raised in the postwar period when the U.S.’s economic and political might were on the rise, Ileana Arias, deputy director of the CDC, says “there may be something about that group, and how they think about life issues and their life choices that may make a difference” that can be correlated with higher suicide rates. Julie Phillips, a Rutgers University sociology professor who has done research on rising suicide rates, comments that baby boomers indeed “had great expectations for what their life might look like, but I think perhaps it hasn’t panned out that way.” The actual suicide rate could be even higher; Philips underscores that suicide is “vastly underreported.” She also says that, given trends in marriage rates and changing family situations, the rise in suicides is not likely to “abate for future generations.”

The CDC’s report makes for difficult reading. But it is a call for stepping up efforts to prevent suicides and also to support family members after someone is lost. Nancy Berliner, whose nearly 58-year-old husband took his own life two years ago, emphasizes the need for “society to become more comfortable with discussing it,” specifically so those left behind “will not have this stigma” and unending thoughts and self-questioning about what could have been done differently.


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Dramatic Rise in “Suicides By Economic Crisis” in Europe

Photo from Thinkstock


Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe4 years ago

I am a Baby Boomer, I have lost a job at 50 and at 56, been super depressed, and took care of an aging parent.
But, I could never think of committing suicide because 6 people in my family have already done that. To me, that is the easy way out. I prefer to fight through whatever it is!

Ala Morales
Ala Morales4 years ago

Thanks to our corrupted governments, corporations, financial instructions that people commit suicide. We live in bad times but we have to have faith and become strong to survive. There is no reason to kill yourself because you lost a house, or you are in debt or lost a job. Just try to survive on little you can and give up the comfort of life. Life is precious. Material things don't mean anything. If you look for a job you will find one eventually. Never give up! Have faith in God

David Lilja
Past Member 4 years ago


char l.
Past Member 4 years ago

Tisa L: "The study also showed that they were more likely commit suicide in their youth. so they didn't become like this, they may have a genetic reason."
It's come full circle. When we were young, we were living in a dark world created by Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover - where suspicion and hate and divisiveness were the order of the day. Our generation thought we could change it - but we still were dealing with Viet Nam, the draft, and political repression. We, for the most part, believed, though. The Age of Aquarius, Peace and Love, Man. And for a while, it seemed better.

Then, in the late 70s, the pendulum went the wrong way. The religious right was born, and Ronald Reagan came to power. Now we are back to Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar - only the names are different. And now, they have technology. We see cuts in our Social Security, and whatever pensions we had were raided. There will be no retirement, and there is little to look forward to. And yes, we are tired.

I can't live in a theocracy with radical inequality. I still harbor a little hope, and if that is snuffed out, why live? I do see signs that the current crop of kids may be more like my generation. I hope they do better than we did at fighting the rich and derelict, and the religious assholes.

Linda F.
.4 years ago

suicide takes so much away from a family. before you do it consider it means one of your kids will probably do it too, cause you made it normal, and one or more your grandchildren. put on your big kid panties and take on the day

Gwynethrose F.
Gwynethrose F4 years ago

As a baby boomer, I know why we are committing suicide...the government/corporate people have taken our jobs, our homes, everything we have worked for our entire lives and many of us are 'sandwiched',, taking care of our parents and our children and/or grandchildren...frankly, we are tired.

Genoveva M.
Genoveva M M4 years ago

Thanks for the information.

Frank Mugford
Frank Mugford4 years ago

Oh, I forgot; in a society that allows anybody to have a gun that they will have to 'Take from my dead lifeless grip!' and where excesses of all sorts coexist with the most appalling poverty and deprivation. Where billionaires like the Cock brothers (sic) can change the course of life's outcomes with money.

Frank Mugford
Frank Mugford4 years ago

I think anybody would consider suicide in a country with a political system that allows something like the Repugnicant Party to exist; in a land where OJ Simpson was found innocent and in a place where a moron like George W Bush can be President.
I mean, is that depressing or what?

Liliana Garcia
Liliana Garcia4 years ago

By the way, I read about what some posters said about her comment, but didn't see it anywhere? Where's Elaine's comment?