The Baby Boomers’ Suicide Spike

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The recession has hit the baby boomers hard. Not only has it affected their earnings, their ability to own a home and other trappings of middle-class life, but also, of course, their sex lives, which AARP reported last month had taken a major hit during the recession. But now, in perhaps a related bit of news, the New York Times reported this weekend that for the second year in a row, middle-aged people have suffered the highest suicide rate in the country. Normally, people over 80 are the most likely to take their own lives. But since 2006, baby boomers in the 45- to 54-year-old range have been killing themselves in record numbers, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.

In hindsight, the suicide numbers look like a warning sign about the coming collapse of the economy, suggesting that many people in their prime working years were already feeling the economic stress of what would become an epidemic of foreclosures and job losses before those losses actually started showing up on anyone’s radar screen. The middle-age suicide rate jumped first in 2006, at the peak of the housing bubble, a sign perhaps that it wasn’t just John Paulson who understood back then that the bust was imminent.

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