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Do baby boomers have a higher rate of suicide than previous generations?

A pair of disturbing statistics highlighted health headlines in 2008. At the start of the year, information collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 1999 to 2005 exhibited a 20 percent rise in suicide rates for adults between 45 and 54 years old. Age groups older and younger, conversely, remained relatively static.

Later that same year, a study made public in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine charted a similar trend during the same time period. According to the research, middle-aged white women represented a 3.9 percent jump in suicide from 1999 to 2005, with white men in the same age bracket exhibiting a lesser escalation. Overall, an increasing number of older adults, including minorities, were committing suicide.

Perhaps, some suggest, it resulted from the dramatic rise in prescription drug use or the reduction in post-menopausal women undergoing hormone replacement therapy. Other experts proposed that it simply revealed the natural ebb and flow of population statistics. The affected group of individuals fell in the middle of the baby boomer generation. Born between the years of 1946 to 1964, American baby boomers total around 78 million strong. Whenever a trend surfaces from this group, it creates a significant impact because of its voluminous size. But an increasing shift in suicide rates pointed to a dour undercurrent. While we gave much attention to baby boomer issues involving retirement, social security and care of the elderly, had we been neglecting an underlying mental health crisis?

Baby boomers are the offspring of the GI generation (born between 1901 and 1924). They narrowly missed the violence and adversity of the Great Depression and the World Wars. Theirs was a period of prosperity, not want. They grew up during a time of hope, characterized by the Kennedy family in the White House, and an era of uncertainty during the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. On the whole, boomers lived with more economic security and brighter futures than previous generations. Women acquired more access to jobs, and children had more educational opportunities available. Suburbia was created, and industrialization filled the nation's coffers.

Certainly, when the first baby boomers celebrated their 60th birthdays in 2006, the world was very different than the one their parents knew. But boomers may have suffered a hidden cost for the progress they achieved.

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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.