Do baby boomers suffer from depression more than other generations?

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As a country, the United States is vastly depressed. Aside from hypertension, Americans experience major depression more than any other universal medical issue, afflicting more than 20 million people. A mixture of genetic, psychological and environmental factors plays a role in depression. Among them, chronic stress is a prevailing environmental contributor to clinical depression. Experiments hinging on stress levels have found that the body responds to stress by manufacturing more proteins called kainate receptors, which are connected to depression.

The stress response is one rationalization for a mental health cohort effect (a pattern that emerges in a specific group) amongst baby boomers. As a group, baby boomers are better educated and more affluent, with improved access to health care than their predecessors, which would suggest comparatively healthier mental well-being. Yet research has demonstrated that the reverse is true; baby boomers, in fact, suffer from greater rates of depression than the GI generation or the silent generation (born 1925 to 1945). While baby boomers lived life fully, many wound up with unmanageable stress and consequently, with depression.

When analyzing depression rates in baby boomers and previous generations, we must also consider the evolution of psychology as a respected field of science. It wasn't until after World War II that psychology and mental health were studied empirically on a significant scale. The Army began looking at veterans' mental status at the turn of the century, and the World Health Organization (WHO) classified mental disorders as medical diseases in 1949. This growing acknowledgment of depression as a legitimate medical problem may persuade more people to accept treatment for it, thus creating a statistical increase.

The aging of the baby boomer population has also probably added to the trend of depression. Though depression isn't a normal part of aging, the societal value of youth may lead older people to feel less worthwhile and helpless.

The rate of depression throughout the population is climbing with succeeding generations. Current psychological research suggests that higher levels of depression are increasingly experienced by younger ages. Following this pattern into the future, there's a high likelihood that generations X and Y will surpass baby boomers as the most depressed cohorts.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.