By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor
WASHINGTON | Mon Sep 27, 2010 5:29pm EDT
Suicide rates for middle-aged people are edging up -- particularly for white men without college degrees -- and a combination of poor health and a poor economy may be driving it, U.S. researchers said on Monday.And this doesn't even include the effects of the recession just officially ended. All of this began during the previous recession and continued through the recovery and expansion of the housing boom. If this isn't an indictment of the previous administration's economic and health care policy, I don't know what is.
Middle-aged people usually have a relatively low risk for suicide as they seek to support their families, but baby boomers are bucking this trend, sociologists Julie Phillips of Rutgers University in New Jersey and Ellen Idler of Emory University in Atlanta found.
"If these trends continue, they are cause for concern," Phillips and Idler wrote in the journal Public Health Reports.
"Male baby boomers have yet to reach old age, the period of the male life course at highest risk for suicide; if they continue to set historically high suicide rates as they did in adolescence and now in middle age, their rates in old age could be very high indeed."
"One question we asked was does this have something to do with the people?" Phillips said in a telephone interview. "Baby boomers have been a group noted for high rates of suicide in the past. It makes me wonder if there is something about baby boomers that may contribute to this pattern."
To figure out what might be causing the changes, Idler and Phillips looked at potential outside factors -- although they note that just because two things happen at the same time, it does not prove cause and effect.
"Unemployment rates in the U.S. rose between 2000 and 2003 at the same time that middle-aged suicide rates increased rapidly," they wrote.
"In addition, rates of bankruptcy increased between 1991 and 2007, in part because of changes in the law, but with personal financial consequences nevertheless."
And baby boomers are the least healthy middle-aged generation, with large rates of obesity and the diseases that result, such as diabetes and heart disease.
"The percentage of those aged 45 to 64 years with multiple chronic diseases increased from 13 percent in 1996 to 22 percent in 2005, with a concomitant rise in out-of-pocket spending for health-care services," Phillips and Idler wrote.
"The burden of disease falls disproportionately on those who are less educated, the group also least likely to have adequate employer-based health insurance."
More at the source, linked to in the headline.