Hidden Distress Among Well-Off Women in America

We’ve written regularly about the how death rates have been rising among some large segments of the US population. One troubling finding was the Case-Deaton study that reported how lifespans have shortened among less educated white Americans aged 45-54. As co-author and Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton said earlier this year, “Many areas of Appalachia and Mississippi Delta have lower life expectancy than Bangladesh.” The Case-Deaton findings came after a 2015 Urban Institute study that found that death rates had increased among white women generally. A Mother Jones story depicted the problem as poverty-related:

The Urban Institute researchers attribute the rise in US deaths among white women to a number of factors. The largest is the sharp spike in overdose deaths from prescription painkillers like Oxycontin, which jumped from 3.3 to 15.9 deaths per 100,000 between 1999 and 2011—an increase of a factor of five. But even without the spike in drug overdoses, white women’s death rates are rising. As deaths from car accidents, breast cancer, and murder have declined, women have died in higher numbers from more pedestrian health care problems, such as the flu and respiratory infections, as well as chronic illnesses linked to obesity, such as diabetes, kidney disease (a complication of high blood pressure), and heart disease….

The increase in death rates among white woman suggests that the economic factors that have long affected their black counterparts are now hitting white communities hard.

However, even middle and upper income women are not faring all that well. On Saturday, I flagged a Financial Times story, The huge disparities in US life expectancy in five charts, as a must read, and commented on this chart in particular:

What leaped out for me is that life expectancy for middle and upper middle class men rose smartly from 1980 onward, yet it was flat for women in the same income groups. Life expectancy for men now exceeds that of women for those cohorts, an un-heard of reversal of widespread norms.

And notice that the flattening occurred during the period when women were making great strides in the workplace. I got my first permanent job in 1981, when the business world was (with a great deal of reluctance) becoming more open to women. The real path-breakers had come ten to twenty years before. And the women in these income groups presumably include a fair chunk of women who had careers.

Could it have to do with rising divorce rates and/or more unmarried women? Men are more likely to remarry than women. Singles who are older than the pairing-up years, save in a very few blue cities, are socially marginalized (they don’t get invited to dinner parties with couples, for instance, because they are viewed as likely to prey on the men); I assume this is also true of divorced women.

Or are there economic stresses not adequately captured in the data? Consider this comment from kareninca:

Being an upper middle class woman is not what it used to be. Yesterday our house call vet (61 y.o., widowed ten years ago, no kids) told me that she did not intend to do anything to prolong her life; she did not want the FIT tests that I offered her when she said she does not get colonoscopies. Her only plan is to see her 96 y.o. mom (who has colon cancer) out of the world. Part of it is her bills; she gets calls all the time about them. And she owes the IRS money.

The thing is, her education and profession and income and home ownership in Silicon Valley (she bought the house long ago, but maybe she remortgaged?) would put her into “upper middle class” on most measures. But I’m guessing that she will not be one of those cheery old ladies of generations gone by; she will be adding to the new stats.

I think her economic situation is not uncommon for professional women of her generation (from my limited observations). I’m not sure the housewives are doing any better, but you’d expect someone with a real income to not be in this situation; it is scary.

Similarly, I have a friend who is 60 very up front (distressingly so) that she does not want to live all that long, as in maybe ten more years. I don’t know her finances well but I am sure she has no debt, but I am also pretty sure she hasn’t accumulated a big net worth despite having a high income (some of that is due to health issues when she was younger; the other is if you live in NYC, the costs are so high you either need to have bought real estate a long time ago or have a very high income to be able to sock a lot away). She likes her work and has an active social life. However, the physical part of aging is already getting to her psychologically, and many of the perks she gets with her work (the status of being a top player in her field, flying around the world) are also important to her, and she won’t find adequate substitutes in her retirement, particularly on a lower income. And on a mundane level, she is planning to leave NYC for expense reasons, yet she has such a forceful personality that it will make it hard to get integrated elsewhere.

Reader thoughts and observations would be very much appreciated.

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  1. kimyo

    the title immediately evoked the memory of meeting a ‘well off’ woman who, as we sat down next to each other, immediately whipped out a photo business card, saying ‘this is what i really look like’.

    which is my roundabout way of saying that many of these women have exposed themselves to dozens of toxins in the form of cosmetics, on a daily basis, for decades.

    however, i believe a key cause of the disparity between male and female longevity in this group is that studies performed on men are used to guide treatment of women.

    for instance: Women and statins – When the drugs may not make sense

    Research has found that for women with elevated LDL levels as their only coronary risk factor, the benefit of lowering LDL cholesterol with a statin drug might not outweigh the risks. Instead, one of the best ways for them to reduce their lifetime risk of heart attack or death is to follow healthy lifestyle practices.

    lastly, this particular group of women are most likely to have adhered to a low-cholesterol/low-fat/low-salt/high-transfat regimen.

    1. glib

      Yes indeed. A giant meta analysis from Japan (paper below, look specially at Figs. 1-3 to 1-13) shows that there is never a reason to give statins to a woman. Women in their 60 with a 400 total cholesterol live longer than those with a cholesterol below 200. There is no reason to give statins to men either, but how is Big Pharma going to profit from CVD? CVD has a very unprofitable course, where people drop dead before they can be treated. Compare with Pharma-friendly cancer and diabetes, where treatments extend for years, and a course of chemo costs 31K dollars.

      Low cholesterol/low fat/low salt/high margarine diets, as you correctly point out, provides a steady stream of people with degenerative disease, since the calories come from flour and sugar. People in the know will adopt Weston Price like diets, and eat butter and liver.


      1. ambrit

        How do you define “course,” as in “course of chemo?”
        My wifes’ Immunotherapy drug was retail billed at $15,000 per dose! Once every two weeks for a year was the prognosis. After three months Phyl called a stop to it. The effects of the therapy on her general well being were getting too much for her to accept blindly. She’s in her early seventies and has taken a “let’s see” attitude. I was incorrect the other day about Medicares’ cost cutting. Medicare approved one third of the retail price for the drug, and paid somewhat less that that. I really pity the people who get stuck facing bills based on the full retail prices of these modern medical “miracles.”
        Luckily for her, my wife has always been against statins. Her blood pressure has always been excellent, while mine…

        1. glib

          Usually chemo is administered for a time, followed by some time interval. That is a course. That is what it cost for my MIL. For my cousin it cost a little less.

          1. ambrit

            Ah, the light goes on. Chemo must be established by now. Immuno is fairly new, and so, the cynic in me prompts, the Pharmas are feeling their way towards an equilibrium “rent extraction” model.
            I hope that your relatives get good results.

      2. Katharine

        Thank you for this! I particularly appreciate the cholesterol information, though I am slightly more skeptical about the evils of flour. I have always maintained you should do what your body tells you even if it gives your doctor heebie-jeebies. When my current doc met me she told me how I was going to transition from whole milk to skim. It took about three years to get her trained, but she’s pretty good now.

        1. glib

          surely there are people who metabolize bread and pasta without too much trouble. For me it has made a large difference, and I am by no means celiac, and my wife healed after years of splitting migraines.
          Happy to help re: that paper. It contains numerous European and Japanese large studies, it is really the best paper to date. Cholesterol is a necessary nutrient, and restricting it causes increased mortality, specially for immune system dependent causes such as cancer and infectious diseases, but also for stroke. Use it to fight your doctor!

          1. ToivoS

            Cholesterol is a necessary nutrient Actually no. Normal people will synthesize all they need. What is known is that if total cholesterol drops below 160 you are at a higher risk for mortality — almost as bad as cholesterol over 300.

            1. glib

              It is necessary for the body to function but it is not ESSENTIAL. A high serum cholesterol is good for you as your blood has a high level of this nutrient which is needed in grams quantities every day. Mortality curves from the FAO (based on country bu country statistics) reflect very much the curves in that paper, with best survival rates at 220. As you get older, your body needs more.

      3. Some dude

        As I was taught in medical school and was pounded into me during residency, “It is very difficult to make an asymptomatic patient better.”

        The benefits of statins in people with cardiovascular disease are well established.

        Statins for primary prevention (i.e., in otherwise healthy people) are being questioned.

        I would be cautious about extrapolating data from a Japanese study onto a caucasian or african american patient.

        I would be extremely cautious about taking medical advice from a random commenter on the internet.


        1. kimyo

          High cholesterol ‘does not cause heart disease’ new research finds, so treating with statins a ‘waste of time’

          Cholesterol does not cause heart disease in the elderly and trying to reduce it with drugs like statins is a waste of time, an international group of experts has claimed.

          A review of research involving nearly 70,000 people found there was no link between what has traditionally been considered “bad” cholesterol and the premature deaths of over 60-year-olds from cardiovascular disease.

          Published in the BMJ Open journal, the new study found that 92 percent of people with a high cholesterol level lived longer.

          “What we found in our detailed systematic review was that older people with high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, lived longer and had less heart disease.”

          Vascular and endovascular surgery expert Professor Sherif Sultan from the University of Ireland, who also worked on the study, said cholesterol is one of the “most vital” molecules in the body and prevents infection, cancer, muscle pain and other conditions in elderly people.

          “Lowering cholesterol with medications for primary cardiovascular prevention in those aged over 60 is a total waste of time and resources, whereas altering your lifestyle is the single most important way to achieve a good quality of life,” he said.

    2. oho

      >are most likely to have adhered to a low-cholesterol/low-fat/low-salt/high-transfat regimen.

      + average or higher-than-average sugar. aka the “Snackwell Diet”.

      Not judging, just the media/marketing + a few dubious medical studies made sugar the lesser of evils during the 80’s, 90’s – 2000’s. when the current research suggests that sugar plays a big role in cardio and liver health—even if you’re height/weight proportionate

      1. BeekeeperRorie

        The Western World has a glyphosate problem. Along with kidney issues, colon issues, liver issues, cancers, endocrine disruption issues, erectile dysfunction, infertility, and birth defects, it causes the condition for which statins are over prescribed (http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/27/the-british-government-colludes-with-monsanto/).

        From the linked article, “Glyphosate contamination of food is associated with an epidemic of diseases: in 2012, the area treated by glyphosate in the UK was 1,750,000 ha and by 2014 it had increased to 2,250,000 ha. Glyphosate (captures) and washes out the following minerals: boron, calcium, cobalt, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, nickel and zinc. Hypercholesterolaemia caused by glyphosate is now treated by statins.”

        Glyphosate is now ubiquitous in our processed food supply, and in many organic crops. It persists in the soil, infiltrates the ground water, and travels on the wind potentially for many miles until it finds a surface to stick to. It’s a systemic and pervasive antibiotic.

        In my experience, glyphosate toxicity has a strikingly unquantifiable effect that contributes to this problem of a lack of joy de vivre, a phenomenon I’ll call “loss of agency.” I see it in teenagers who snack out of Trader Joe’s and commit suicide. I saw it up close in a sixty three year old well employed respected gentleman who committed “suicide by western medicine.” (That’s just like it sounds– suicide by cop, only suicide by ignorant medical doctor.)

        Why am I so fixated glyphosate? I’m a full time beekeeper. A gentleman friends who submitted to chemotherapy for lymphoma treatment was well aware that his lymphoma was highly likely linked to the fifty to a hundred or so stings a day he took on his hands, seasonally, as a commercial hive inspector. The bees had all been in the crop pollination circuit, starting in the California almonds, working their way up the coast into the Canadian low bush blueberry crop, and back to cranberries in Massachusetts. The bees were loaded with glyphosate, among high concentrations of myriad other pesticides/fungicides/herbicides.

        Glyphosate causes low sperm counts in drone bees. Queen life expectancy in honeybees has diminished from 5-6 years back in the early 90’s to 3-4 years in the early 2000’s, to 1-2 years by 2009, and to about six months today. The increase in use of glyphosate on crops closely correlates with queen fertility issues in honeybees, not to mention erectile dysfunction advertisements on the telly.

        And, oh, btw, glyphosate was originally patented many decades ago as a de-scaling agent for industrial boilers. The last place it should be is in our food supply.

        1. beth

          A large Denmark co-op is actively trying to take glyphosate out of snacks and other products. You can read more here:

      2. BeekeeperRorie

        And sugar these days is by and large GM beet sugar, drenched with glyphosate in both the cultivation and drying processes. I had an entire bee yard collapse last summer after an adjacent neighbor kept refilling her hummingbird feeder with cheap beet sugar syrup, thinking it was so kind of her to feed the thirsty bees during the drought.

        1. goldie

          I’ll bet many people have no idea about the GM beet sugar/glyphosate issue in hummingbird feeders. Thank you for bringing that to our attention. Is there a substitute that is safe to use in HB feeders?

          1. meeps

            I use raw coconut crystal (a commercially available blossom sap evaporite) which is a nice, low glycemic sugar alternative for my family. Unlike refined sugar, the minerals, amino acids vitamin C and broad-spectrum B vitamins remain. I use a .25/1 ratio of dissolved crystals to water and the birds love it. No need to add red coloring.

              1. Waldenpond

                I thought agave was only appropriate for certain diets because of the high level of fructose?

                Sugar is 50/50
                HFCS is 55/45
                Agave is sometimes 55/45 and as much as 90/10

                Interesting to see a statement of personally responsibility for diet (women have exposed themselves to dozens of toxins) narrow to a debate on merely one product.

                1. meeps

                  As I understand it, the natural form of fructose in agave nectar digests more slowly than that of HFCS. The blue agave in my kitchen lists at 17 on the glycemic index, verses the 55-68 GI rating of HFCS and is evaporated, not cooked, which makes a difference. I personally use very little added sugar of any kind in my diet since I am a type 1 diabetic, but a tablespoon or 2 of agave nectar in a salad dressing or marinade is not too great a volume.

                  My statement wasn’t about personal responsibility for diet. I was a responding to goldie’s question about alternatives to GM beet sugar in hummingbird feeders. Multiple products are mentioned in the thread. I didn’t narrow anything to a debate over a product. I offered suggestions.
                  As for the original topic of the post, I’ve no business opining as I don’t consider myself a ‘well-off’ woman.

        2. different clue

          How would glyphosate become widespread in Organic food? Since the whole point of Organic is to use zero synthetoxic pesticides/herbicides such as glyphosate? What are the pathways leading glyphosate into the Organic food?

          1. kimyo

            Five myths about organic food

            For products with the USDA “organic” label, only 95 percent of the ingredients must be organic. There are about 200 non-organic substances producers can to add to food without sacrificing the organic claim. And that non-organic 5 percent could be sprayed with herbicides and pesticides. The other 95 percent could be exposed to USDA-approved biological or botanical pest controls — or even chemicals from a list of allowable compounds poisonous to weeds and bugs but supposedly safe for people.

            Study Finds Monsanto’s Glyphosate in 100% of California Wines Tested — Even the Organic Ones

            All ten of the wines tested positive for the chemical glyphosate, the declared “active” ingredient in Roundup weedkiller and 700 other glyphosate­based herbicides. The highest level of glyphosate detected was up to 28.4 times higher than the other wines at 18.74 ppb from a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from a conventional, chemically farmed vineyard. The lowest level was from a biodynamic and organic vineyard, 2013 Syrah, which has never been sprayed according to the owner, with a level of .659 ppb. An organic wine from 2012 mixed red wine grapes, had 0.913 ppb of glyphosate.

            1. different clue

              Does this apply to “stage one raw ingredients”? Or to “prepared foods” only?
              In other words . . . . if I buy plain hulled Organic oats, NOT rolled, NOT steamed, NOT “meal” . . . do I get 100 % Organic oat grains? Or does the Federal Organic law permit them to mix in 5 % conVENtional oat grains along with the other 95% of the orGANic oat grains?

              Is that what you are saying they can do?

              1. kimyo

                it does appear that a crop can be labeled ‘usda organic’ and yet be grown from non-organic seeds.

                from page 3 of the usda’s Guidelines for Organic Crop Certification

                Seeds and planting stock (§205.204)
                Producers of organic crops are required to source certified organic seed, annual seedlings and planting stock. If organic seeds are not commercially available, non-organic untreated seeds may be used. Commercial availability means that the seed is available in the appropriate variety (growing habits, days to maturity, insect and disease resistance, etc.), quality (cleanliness, germination, etc.), form (size, grade, hot water treated etc.) or quantity the producer needs.

                (from page 2) Accepted crop nutrient and soil amendments:
                Nutrients or soil amendments included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production

                there is also a list of acceptable soil amendments which include manure and compost. it is not specified that this material be sourced from organic animals/produce.

            2. different clue

              This sounds like chemical drift. Your conventional neighbor sprayed herm’s grapes with a bunch of Roundup and some of it drifted onto your organic vineyard.
              The only solution for this problem is to exterminate glyphosate from agricultural and wipe it off the face of farm country.

              How to make it such a money loser and loss-causer that it no longer pays for anyone to dare use it? Because clearly the only way to stop it from appearing in EVERYthing is to forBID it from appearing in ANYthing. A good first step would be for people who support a War On Monsanto to limit their buying of every possible thing to those things which were grown or made without any glyphosate bought, paid for and used by the “no glypho” seller. Is there a sh*t-sure way to PROOOOOOVE that? Because that would be a first step towards
              attriting and degrading revenue streams flowing to Big Glypho. As more and more conventional grower-makers began losing more and more bussiness to growers who can say ” We hate Monsanto too!” . . . and can prove they really do . . . they may find themselves close enough to driven out of bussiness that they surrender their Roundup to save their bussiness.

          2. BeekeeperRorie

            As for replacing hummingbird feeders, I plant butterfly bushes, Russian sage plants, etc.

            As for feeding my bees only when it is critically necessary, I use organic cane sugar made into a syrup. I much prefer for the bees to forage nectar, and even in droughts they can travel up to 5 or so miles for nectar.

            As for organic products being tainted with glyphosate, EPA gave the go ahead for farmers to use glyphosate as a desiccant, that is as a drying agent, for grains and other food stuffs as long as three years ago. That’s why it’s so difficult to find “clean” oats and other grains. A consultant/presenter at NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) told the audience in February 2015 that many farmers have been spraying crops with glyphosate as a desiccant just days before harvest since 2014.

            As I understand it, there simply aren’t enough grain farmers to manage the organic crop needs in the US, so they use glyphosate as a desiccant out of desperation, to speed the drying process in the harvesting and storage phase of production. I have gone to great lengths to source “clean” granola, which I get in custom batches from a local bread baker.

            Glyphosate has been found in red wine from California, organic raisins, and many many other foods. The list is constantly growing.

            Here in Mass the farms all around me are spraying copious amounts of glyphosate on the potato crops just days prior to harvest because it’s more efficient to harvest potatoes form the ground when everything above them is dead. There is no such thing anymore as a “safe” french fry.

            1. glib

              this is even worse for beans, because legumes have fibrous vines that gum up combines, much more than grains do. so beans (soy, but also the kidney beans in the chili you ate yesterday) all get sprayed a week or so before harvest, to make the vines dry and brittle.

            2. different clue

              Are you saying that USDA Certified Organic grain-growers under the Federal Organic law are spraying their grain crops with glyphosate as a dessicant for uniform drydown? Are you saying that this practice is not confined to the conventional side of agriculture?

              Certified Organic grain growers are spraying the grainfields with glyphosate? Has there been any journalism or reporting done about this? Is there a link to an article about this? Is this considered legal under the Federal Organic Act or is this an illegal practice for Certified Organic Growers?

              1. BeekeeperRorie

                I can tell you I stopped pollinating “organic” farms in 2015. That was not an easy decision, pollination being a big source of my income. I stopped pollinating “conventional” farms years earlier. It became very clear to me that so called organic farmers had zero interest in pollinator health, were simply competing for that higher organic market share. I lost 3-4 k in bees at an organic farm on the first weekend of June in 2015. Spinosad sprayed on high bush blueberries was the offending agent. The farmer literally told me, “EPA said it’s okay.” As if EPA gives a hoot about pollinator survival, let alone health.

                There’s plenty of documented information out there. Do a little research.

            3. goldie

              This glyphosate topic is certainly my education for the day! It sounds like really nasty stuff. Thanks for the education you provided me.

    3. Oregoncharles

      We’re looking for factors that differentiate between sexes, so I think you’ve got the best bets. Isn’t makeup largely unregulated? I would look especially at lipstick, which gets ingested, and eye makeup, which is in contact with mucus membranes. Skin isn’t good at absorbing most things.

      Another one: a lot of chemicals are estrogen-mimickers. It’s possible those have a bigger effect on women than on men – men might even benefit from slight feminization. But there’s also a difference between classes; do you suppose expensive makeup is more toxic than the cheap stuff? That might point at medicines: better-off people are much more likely to be taking things like statins.

      There is also physical activity; middle- and upper-middle jobs are more sedentary – waitresses observably get a lot of exercise, and production workers generally do, too. That imposes certain stresses, but the physical benefits may outweigh them.

      And speculating more freely: boys and girls are still socialized very differently. The higher you climb, the more you’re in jobs that were designed by and for men. The resulting mismatch may impose high stress on some women, especially combined with trying to have and care for children. That imposes not only the stress of parenthood, but the further stress of returning to work after a longish absence.

      And finally: both of the older women described appeared to be single. Until recently, at least, the male death rate was higher, so men get scarce as they get older. That may benefit them and certainly leaves a lot of women on their own – but again, why the class factor?

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Having been in those jobs, and having been badly socialized (as in getting none of the normal “girl” conditioning at home, although you can’t avoid it entirely), it’s not quite “jobs designed by and for men”.

        We’ve basically not even begun to adjust to the fact that reproductive control makes it possible for women to have careers. Note the Nordic countries are way way ahead, both in that men routinely take up roughly half the home chores (surveys show that even working women do more than their fair share), widespread cheap or free daycare, and better parental leave policies.

        I don’t remotely buy the idea that women are natively more collaborative which I think is the root of your comment re (by implication) professional jobs being designed for men. Despite regular blather regarding sisterhood, my observation is that women are much more competitive and much less willing to promote each other than men, and regularly far more vicious and bullying than men but they do it psychologically rather than through shows of force, since due to smaller body mass, most of the time they’ll get the shit pounded out of them if a fight gets physical.

        However, it is fair to say that women who receive normal girl acculturation routinely find it difficult to exercise authority. Women are trained much more strongly than men to be friendly and project likeableness, when being in charge often requires being a hardass.

        But I think at least as much of the stress is that for women to get beyond middle-level jobs, they have to be much better than men, and on top of that, navigate around the neuroses of the male leaders of their company. Women face deeply ingrained prejudice. Coding by women is actually on average better than male coding (due no doubt to the fact that only really good female coders would try to enter a male bastion like programming) yet when told a sample of coding was done by a women, it is graded much lower than when the reviewer is told it was produced by a man. You get the same results for a sample of writing. For women in the sciences to get tenure, they have to write on average 2.5 times more peer-reviewed articles than men.

        See this article for more details.


        1. Oregoncharles

          ” the root of your comment re (by implication) professional jobs being designed for men.”
          No, I was referencing simple history: Men designed those jobs and workplaces for themselves. Insofar as there are differences, whether learned or inherent, there would be a poor fit. I’ve also read that the movement of women into the workplace has redesigned them, to some degree, to the benefit of both sexes.

          Your experience that women are MORE competitive makes me think about our deep history: hunting large game, which mostly men did, required a lot of cooperation. So did warfare, organizing large rituals, etc. But again, it might be mostly socialization – we can’t yet conclude anything about inherent differences, besides the obvious. You should really look up Rene Denfeld’s “Kill the Body, the Head Will Fall: A Closer Look at Women, Violence, and Aggression.” A book – the only links I found are to places to buy it. She was a boxer. Very interesting, got herself in a lot of trouble with the more dogmatic feminists of the 90’s. I think you’d like her.

          It’s alarming that there is still so much prejudice, mostly, I suspect, unconscious. It’s been 2 generations now. At the same time, certain aspects of male-female relations haven’t changed in the ways we expected back then. Social and cultural change are hard.

          And thanks for a very detailed response. I hope this project bears more fruit.

    4. Issie

      Long time reader First time poster. I can say with 95% confidence caregiver for elders is the reason. In fact it is devastatingly tragic this country let this happen. White middle class women educated or not are least likely to cry “victimhood” and simply blame themselves and except the consequences. States balance their budgets on the backs of caregivers while they gladly welcom “Syrian refugees”. Being single or never married in American should not be a punishment that is inflicted on these women nor should the result of an educated women living in poverty in her elder years and dying an earlier death. The social contract broke down when divorce in the 80’s become prevalent leaving the children of divorce to pick up the pieces financially and physically. Essentially government should have legislated marriage and guaranteed every single women a husband to assist with his and hers elder parent care, children care and house duties. (sounds crazy but that is where we are today a single person cannot do it all) Husbands remarry and die and the money goes to the new wife. If daughters who are tasked with caring don’t marry and become financially broke caring for a mother she inherits nothing and no one dies leaving her money. She is another welfare payment of 700 a month. Lastly the sickest evilest thing of it all (I talked to the states top elder care attorney about this and told me I had no chance) is the Washington DC crowd simply lets this continue by using the excuse of nursing home placement. It is not right, it is not human and to ask this group of women to put there loved ones in nursing homes for years and then to function normal is a travesty of huge proportions. Especially since the government has allocated millions to transiting elders our of nursing homes the last 10 years into adult children homes single or not. Statistics show 85% falls on the shoulders of women. I will write more later….. If i have time..

      1. flora

        Issie, thanks for your post.
        While I think we come at this from different angles, and do not agree on every point, I do think you hit on important points. The Powers That Be depend mightily on a social continuity, which depends greatly on unpaid women’s social cohesion and care giving work. (This is not to take anything away from men’s unpaid social cohesion and care giving work.) Yet, the PTB will never acknowledge either the importance of this work or the importance of social continuity to their positions. They will never admit that without social cohesion their positions become absurd, even unsupportable. imo.

      2. roxan

        Issie, you are so right! I went through that misery for ten years, trying to nurse an angry decrepit mother with Alzheimer’s. She was so nasty, no one stayed long and I had no relatives or spouse to help. Even though I’m a nurse, I could not cope.

    5. mtnwoman

      I’m a clinician, in the trenches for decades and the Standard American Diet (SAD) of diet drinks and highly processed crap is surely taking it’s toll.

      I’m astounded what middle class America considers a healthy diet. Some start their day with a Diet Coke and something sugary and it goes downhill from there.

      It’s more likely that my well off clients eat a lot healthier diet. I suppose they have the education, time and money to better care for themselves.

  2. makedoanmend

    My first thought in reading the article title was: oh lord, this cohort ain’t going to get much sympathy. Secondly, we’ll get quite a few comments about how individuals, in isolation, should to x, y and z so as to prolong life.

    My only contribution is that the female examples you mention who do not want to overly prolong life (and indeed are probably being realistic about staying alive beyond a certain human functional level in predatory economies) will be joined by males tout suite. Unlike their predecessors (such as mothers, aunts and grandmothers we’ve encoutered that were stallwart individuals who carved out lives in often vicarious situations) these “modern” women probably do not have close-knit communities and a series of intimate and extended ties upon which they can map meaningful futures and rely upon in times of need.

    Again most males of this demographic will also come to this impasse in time.

    We’d do well to find common empathy with this cohort as with any other of the growing number of (? can’t really think of appropriate name/group/category – maybe just human beings).

      1. John k

        The data says both will longer. Loneliness is a killer.
        Families used to be closer in all meanings… now many most live far apart. Find a mate or be content to die.

        1. Waldenpond

          Merely find a companion. There is nothing wrong with having a roommate. Bring back boarding houses. Build public housing. There are many ways to have social connection than just marriage.

          1. barb

            yes! marriage and cohabitation while providing some advantages often cause more stress than happiness! this is why as a 55yo professional who is fun and down-to-earth is investigating co-housing. Be sure to research!

          2. Patrick

            Agreed. I feel like a lot of social malaise in developed countries comes from our rather limited lifestyle arrangements.

            We live solitary lives in personal homes, but humans evolved for hundreds of thousands of years living in small tribes. We probably won’t adapt to our current living style for quite some time.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Hate to tell you, but studies overwhelmingly show that women have much better social networks than men. Middle and upper middle income women would have the means to belong to groups in their community (as in be able to have a car and drive to get there easily, not be strained by membership dues and other obligations, be able to to entertain or have lunches and dinners operative). You are projecting a male pattern onto women that is unlikely to hold. I probably set you up to go that route by noting that single women find it hard to integrate into the main socializing (couples oriented) in many communities, since they are seen as a threat. But the middle/upper middle class ones can adopt a charity or community group and have a very busy social life. And never forget that many people use church for this purpose. Women more than men also get involved in New Age groups.

      And my single woman friend that I mentioned above has a big social network. She’s always going out to theater or the opera or the museum with a buddy and it’s different buddies. She also has friends in many of the cities she visits in her business and vacations with friends.

  3. Another Anon

    “We’d do well to find common empathy with this cohort”
    Absolutely. Too many people see empathy as a limited resource that must be doled out sparingly.

    1. Praedor

      Not at all. I have lots of empathy for any and all who are not rich. If you are rich, you get my finger and an expletive. Earned and deserved.

      1. Eowyn

        Harboring a general dislike of everyone you consider “rich” is not healthy. Curious: is there a specific number at which people become rich in your eyes? Or some other, er, qualification?

        1. Jason Boxman

          Rage isn’t supposed to rational. After the financial crisis, I look upon all those that flaunt wealth in an age of endless austerity and elite lawlessness with barely concealed contempt. It’s callous and signals a moral vacuousness.

          Make of that what you will.

          1. Eowyn

            Yes, I understand what you feel about the ‘elite’. The discussion regarding Peter Thiel and his New Zealand ‘safe space’ here a few days ago spoke to this. Personally, I find hedge fund managers to be a strange brand of worthless striving for the almighty dollar. Not all of the “rich” are like this, however. My preference is for the millionaire-next-door kind of low key wealth accumulation; running a business that actually produces things or provides useful services is worthwhile and to be commended IMO.

            1. jrs

              Nooone should be allowed to have that kind of Peter Theil mega-wealth period, tax it ALL away would be good public policy, and probably good for them as clearly it just makes them psychotic (they probably already were sociopathic and they clearly are at this point). Now moderate wealth hmm, I don’t know.

              1. Praedor

                Precisely. Set not only a maximum wage/income, but tax out of existence any excess that exceeds the max. I’d also see to severely restricting inheritance. NO ONE should be, by pure chance, born into fearless wealth with no cares in the world.

                I could see ANY trust or cash inheritance over 1 million (or less) is OK but it is taxed as it gets disbursed as if it is any other income. If you are receiving an “allowance” from a trust of $5000/month (modest for rich people) then it gets taxed just as if it were $60k/yr from a real person who works for a living. Land is inheritable, so long as it is farmland and the like but as soon as any attempt is made to subdivide it and “develop” it into tract houses (or into a gated community) then it is taxed up one side and down the other…have to encourage land/open space preservation and hinder profiteering and land rape. Basically, any inheritance is fine until you start taking bits of it to live on or supplement your living. That happens and BOOM! Heavy tax.

                1. Eowyn

                  If only. Perhaps following the Big Collapse that may happen. For now, our “leaders” in D.C. are taking the polar opposite stance.

        2. Praedor

          Anyone who never has to worry about either buying needed meds OR food. Anyone who doesn’t have to worry about suffering medical bankruptcy. Anyone with one or more vacation homes, or has a megamansion, Anyone who has no worries about retiring even if/when the GOP and CorpDems cuts/guts Social Security and Medicare because they’re rich and “set”.

          So, my empathy is for humans.

    2. cocomaan

      I think we have an illusion of gradualism, where in reality life is a series of fits and starts. My mother went back to school because she hated her career, throwing our dual income family into a one income household for several years. Things got lean. Early in our marriage, my wife and I spent time and treasure in graduate school (still do in student loans). We ate a lot of dried beans and worked awful jobs to make ends meet. I know people who have had brain tumors and didn’t know it, resulting in changed behavior, and a teenager who just got diagnosed with lymphoma in his second year of college.

      Class is fluid and fluid finds the shortest route downhill. Plenty of top 10%’ers will fall out of that segment. They might regain status but they might not. Their careers stall when their parents get sick. Their kids screw up their lives and move back home. Maybe I should think more about what that hippy said about throwing stones. Thanks for the reminder.

      Regarding the graph, it seems to me that the obesity rate probably moves the line the most. Women tend toward excess weight more than men and there are an enormous number of unhealthy people in the middle age cohort. You will not live well if you are carrying an extra fifty pounds around.

      1. Spring Texan

        “You will not live well if you are carrying an extra fifty pounds around.” Nonsense. Although certainly obesity is on balance undesirable, plenty of people like me who do carry around extra weight (and have for decades) are in fact living very well. My best decision was to decide to accept my weight in my early 20s instead of being miserable about it (I realized losing weight and regaining it over and over with great effort had less payoff than other efforts I made and stopped.) Lots of fat people are reasonably happy and healthy day to day.

        Obesity on average does shorten life and it has real downsides, but it is not a tragedy and will not ipso facto ruin one’s life unless one lets that happen.

        1. cocomaan

          Speaking for experience, I was obese at one point and now I’m more or less in the right weight/height ratio. Obesity changes one’s phenomenology. It’s not as simple as how you encounter the world at the end of life. That extra weight creates dependency in a number of areas, from bloating the already awful healthcare system, to doubling down on urbanization, to how we use/abuse energy, and the continued molesting of the food supply. Because we’ve integrated sedentary lifestyles into how we order society, it works the way it is, but it’s not sustainable. Aristotle wrote about moderation, the medievalists wrote about decadence, and there’s something important in old lessons about staying lean.

          Wellness, to me, means much more than personal experience and self satisfaction. It extends into the interactions with and responsibilities to others. This shouldn’t be taken personally, just that I’ve seen both sides of it and I’ve made my conclusions on the matter.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          50 pounds is a lot for a woman. Being heavier is correlated with a longer lifespan, but not being obese.

          Tradeoff is:

          1. More weight means if you get some sort of really serious illness, you have fat reserves to draw on. I had a buddy who had a serious pancreatic ailment (fortunately it was treatable) but he wasn’t allowed to ingest food for a few weeks. I didn’t realize but you really can’t deliver someone enough calories via IV. Some treatments make it pretty much impossible to keep food down.

          2. More fat means more padding if you fall, which means less likelihood of breaking a bone. My mother took a fall once which should have broken her hip but didn’t and I am pretty sure that the fat was the reason.

          On the negative:

          1. Higher odds of diabetes

          2. Way more load on your heart

          3. Way more load on yours joints, so earlier onset and/or more severe occurrence of orthopedic issues.

          1. Hemang

            Good post. I would like to gently add that not to be thin in a moderate sense (not for fashionable aims) is a decent moral position for the body to aspire to, especially with so much deprivation around the world. Do note all of you- The day Gandhi was killed in 1948, January 30; he was 78 years old and his blood pressure was textbook perfect in the morning (80-120) and of course he had no sugar problems or for that matter any other health problem and he walked 1 hour each day! All moderns (including ‘Upper-class white women whose graph has flattened) must go down completely on consumption (and not consider flying around the world as a perk) and stop spending money except on the bare essentials (Which Gandhi did) and see and discover the magic of gorgeous life , where each moment unfolds like a flower and meaningfulness and empathy and engagement with the world. Of course, the act of reading will also contribute to these joys of life: And all those flattened graphs will run away!

      2. ocop

        Obesity was my exact thought as well, it’s the only population-level massive change that seemed to be somewhat ubiquitous (Yves and comments have mentioned “normal weight” as having become a status marker of the wealthy).

        At a population level I suspect elements of despair and meaninglessness have crept in, but for at least the “upper middle class” it’s taken a wholesale decline in physical well-being to start moving the line downward. Obesity is probably part causal and part co-morbid.

        1. Hemang

          Very good insight- obesity is part co morbid. My feeling is that it is way of the human body to deal with the societal unhappiness.Still it is a good idea to go against the doctrine of Cogito consumption sum…..

    3. jrs

      the quality of mercy is not strained ..

      but really who is the cohort, well paid professonals, yea ok, but the super rich, I don’t know they are a whole pathology of their own. They seem to lack empathy for anyone else so we could at least repay the favor.

      1. Katharine

        I don’t know if that’s such a good plan, but I must admit I always thought the most mind-boggling directive in the gospels is “Love your enemies, do good to them that hurt you.” On that basis, I suspect there are very few practicing Christians.

        Still, this post does not seem to be primarily about those people, and as I think someone noted above, people can shift from apparent security to very different circumstances all too easily, and recognize the potential long before it is a reality.

        One thing about losing a career, whether through retirement or earlier, is that you lose the status and perks that went with it. If you had unthinkingly let them matter too much, defining your value in terms of your career instead of in terms of yourself, that can be disorienting. That may not play a large role here but could be a contributing cause.

        1. sunny129

          Minimalism is the cure and can be adopted at ANY stage of life.

          Some may define it as ‘voluntary downshift’ Flexible and meaningful attitude towards materialism.

          Between NEED and WANT is ENOUGH!

          1. Katharine

            Absolutely, but people who bought into someone else’s values without enough thought sometimes take a while to realize it.

  4. Anti-Schmoo

    As a male, 3 months from 72; I can appreciate the attitudes expressed by the women in this piece.
    I haven’t seen a doctor in over 5 years; and will not accept life extending procedures, if needed. So far so good; no health issues at this time.
    That said; if I had remained in the U.S. (I left at 57) I’d not likely made it past 60.
    The quality of life in the U.S. has deteriorated unbelievable quickly since the 80’s; most especially for women. However, minorities and working class white males have also been targeted.
    The toxic capitalist policies have turned most Usians into wage slaves. Society is fragmenting (for more than 20 years), thereby creating a toxic environment for all citizen’s except the top 1%.
    And I believe even they are feeling the separation and isolation.
    My sister is working a full time civil servant job, house cleaning (on the side) and care giving in the evenings; she’s 67 years old, with little prospect for a genuine retirement.
    I’ve been extremely fortunate to have retired 9 years ago; only possible because of the incredibly inexpensive cost of living in my chosen country.
    You’d better believe I thank the god’s every day for this good fortune.
    To the rest; you have my heart felt sympathies for circumstances beyond your control…

        1. Olga

          Moving out of US is certainly my preferred choice (although, to be fair, not all can do this). Reasons: cheaper life and health care, and much better quality of life (including, at least in Europe, incredibly rich cultural life – and accessible cost-wise). I’d also want to mention one constant feature of life in US – anxiety. Whether it is caused by issues that are personal, professional (e.g., job security), politics (the pains of living in an aggressive & militaristic, hegemonic empire), and/or system-induced isolation (can be remedied if one tries really hard)… etc. Plus the fast pace of never-ending change, change, change. It seems to me that anxiety crosses class lines.

          1. Anti-Schmoo

            Yes, anxiety in the U.S. is a constant companion.
            Change however is a fact of life/living; leaving will not change that basic reality.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I want to push back a little, because you seem to be conflating invasive measures to prolong life v. ones that are short-term or not troublesome.

      One of my mother’s friends got Gillaume-Baurre. He would have died if not treated. I recall him getting sick when he was in his early 80s. He was hospitalized and as I was told, they hooked him up to a machine to “clean his blood”. I’ve never liked this explanation so I hope an MD will pipe up re what they probably did.

      He’s now a hearty 93, still drives, walks pretty well with a cane, cognitively fine. His wife is still alive but not faring quite as well.

      My mother has constrictive pulmonary disease and osteoperosis. She is one of the rare stroke victims to have sustained virtually no stroke damage. She can walk but very slowly, uses a walker when outside the house. She takes meds for the COPD, osteoperosis, and stoke prevention (blood thinners). At 89, she is sharp and is happy to read books and eat out now and again.

      1. Magil

        Though not an MD I was stricken by the same autoimmune disease in the 90’s at a very young age. The “blood cleaning treatment” referred to is plasmapheresis or “plasma exchange” therapy. This involves several (7 or more) multi-hour sessions of a patients blood being run through a centrifuge to separate out blood plasma to be replaced by donor plasma and albumin to reverse the immune systems attack on the myelin sheath which covers peripheral nerves. The recovery process is long and usually involves a great deal of physical therapy to rehabilitate muscles that have atrophied due to lack of use caused by the peripheral nerves not being able to relay signals correctly.

        Despite being curable, most often the patient is left with significant tremors and weakness which makes fine motor tasks very difficult as well as issue relating to gate and balance. The older the patient gets the more difficult it becomes to accomplish basic tasks.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I don’t see any tremors in my mother’s friend and I doubt he’d be driving if he had them. He looks like he’s 70. He even still does woodworking. So it appears his results were better than you were led to expect.

          1. Magil

            Not a matter of being led to expect a certain result. More a matter of how much of the myelin covering the nerve axons the disease deteriorated. I’m in my 40’s and was left with significant tremors. Perhaps in the case of your mother’s friend it wasn’t so dramatic. That said, I’m not sure any person in their 80’s should still be operating a motor vehicle. I suspect that Tesla and Apple and the rest will soon be making this discussion moot.

            Woodworking is ok, I guess, as they only really are posing a risk to themselves.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              I’m sorry you suffered so much. The man in question had it come on suddenly and severely, which meant he got treated pronto. Was your case more gradual? Maybe that is why you took more damage.

              I’ve been in a car with him and he is a fine driver. His reflexes are good. He looks and functions like he is 70.

              I similarly had a great uncle who hauled lobster traps without a winch through his 80s. That is hard physical work. He was perplexed that he could do it for only half a day, versus a full day when he was younger. I last saw him when he was 88. Based on his skin quality, and the way he stood and moved, you would have mistaken him for a man in his 50s who’d been in the sun and wind a lot.

        2. Jeotsu

          Incidentally, that is why people in good health should consider being a plasma donor. There is never enough plasma out there for all the worthy therapies it can provide. I’ve donated over 80 litres in the last 4 years, though I’m now on a 6 month deferment when I slipped and needle jabbed myself. Whoops.

      2. Carla

        Yves, I am always so touched when you write about your mother — perhaps because makes me feel closer to mine, now gone for 12 years. My mother remained “with it” and active until a fall that broke her hip; when she died three months later, it was 11 days after her 94th birthday. She also had COPD (smoked until that final hip surgery, which we shouldn’t have elected for her, but we didn’t know) and severe osteoperosis. She was a pianist and taught right up until that final fall.

        I will say this: watching helplessly as Mom valiantly fought, with everything she had, each physical diminishment and loss of independence that aging inflicted on her, made me angry and sad. I have no desire to see 90, myself.

        1. Katharine

          It’s interesting that we reacted so differently to superficially similar experiences. I watched similar stubborn determination with admiration and a little sadness (mixed with recurrence of the ordinary frictions of near kin), and hope I may have learned enough to emulate it. God knows, things could change, but so far I still hope I may live as long and remain as engaged as my mother did.

          One thing I often notice is that some people start treating aged parents as not-quite-persons, to be managed, even when they are mentally fully competent. I would never ever have gotten away with that, though fortunately upbringing and decades of familiarity meant I would never have tried it anyway.

          1. Rhondda

            One thing I often notice is that some people start treating aged parents as not-quite-persons, to be managed, even when they are mentally fully competent.

            Thank you for that insight. That’s something I need to think about.

      3. Anti-Schmoo

        That’s fine; everybody needs to make their own decisions. I should have stated that my context was serious illness such as cancer, past the early stages, when a cure is not likely.
        But regardless, I was speaking to my own view of life and living.
        Potential bankruptcy, involving mates and family, because of extreme medical bills seems a waste.
        I could rant for eons on the criminality of the U.S. medical care vacuity, but Usian’s seem to accept the beaten down side of life; I do not.
        I have excellent medical care if and when I need it; I choose to seek care only when I feel sick. That very rarely happens to me. I’m not one to go for annual check ups; my decision, no?
        I’m very happy to hear your mother is well.
        As I said, this is my outlook/lifestyle choice, not a sales pitch.

    2. Ohnoyoucantdothat

      I concur … retired in 2005 after being laid off for the umteenth time and deciding it just wasn’t worth the effort anymore. Wife was from Ukraine so we moved to Crimea and bought a small (600 sq. ft.) flat in reasonable shape. Life wasn’t a bed of roses but we found it possible to live very reasonably and the lifestyle here was much slower than at home in US. We went through the whole Maidan/Russian thing 3 years ago and are now living in the Russian Federation. Life is not as good because the Russian culture is much more controlling and things are much more expensive. Wife isn’t faring nearly as well as I am but the constant crap does wear on you. Much like US unfortunately.

      That said, I’ve decided that it’s not in my interest to fight like hell to get every single day of life. I’ve already fighting several difficult health issues (severe asthma, bad legs, arthritis everywhere) and I’m just 68. My family has a history of dying young (parents both before 50 and older brother at 63) so I’m not really looking for a long run. But I have a definite target in mind … I’m a landscape photographer and that requires a certain level of stupid combined with a lot of courage and good health so I can make it to the remote places where the best photos are. I’ve got the first 2 in spades but the health is an increasing issue for me. I’m known for hanging off cliff edges to get the most dramatic images. That means I need to be rock steady and not prone to falling down. Unfortunately, I’ve had hemorrhages in both eyes (laser surgery to seal leaking veins) which impacts my vision big time and blood clots in my legs (surgery in 2007) so I’m fast approaching that time when I no longer can be quite as daring as I’ve been in the past. That’s an issue for me. I’ll be back in the states in 6 weeks and have a goal of shooting the Golden Gate at low tide from the Pacific side (south pier) at both sunset and sunrise which means I have to walk on the tidal flats and get my shots with a very limited time window. I have to walk some distance and that’s a big “if” given my crappy legs and the asthma so this is a test of just how much more I can do. I have no interest in being confined to easily accessible lookouts or carrying an oxygen bottle everywhere I go. If I can’t do my photography I’m pretty much finished. I watched relatives fight to the last breath, exhausting themselves, their finances and their families and I have no desire to go that route. I know that sounds crass and selfish but that’s how I see it. I want to leave my retirement money to my family, not the medical system. So when serious, life-threatening sickness comes, I’ll evaluate the options and the long-term prognosis and decide if I want to fight or not.

      1. Jason Boxman

        As something of an occasional photography myself, your post brought tears to my eyes.

        I hope you get your Golden Gate shot.

      2. Olga

        Wish you ll the best with the health issues … but – have you taken pics of sunrise from AiPetri?
        That is a sight to see…

        1. Ohnoyoucantdothat

          Actually, don’t get around Crimea much. I know that sounds strange but true. Wife doesn’t like to travel around so I’ve not seen all that much of the place. Used to visit Stormavoya to see friend but he died several years ago so stopped. But I’ll take your suggestion when I have a chance. Unfortunately, I leave my good cameras in states as they are quite heavy for my arthritic back and apes they use in security are dangerous to their survival. Almost attacked a particularly abusive security inspector in Paris when he started banging my stuff on his table.

      3. flora

        oh dear, I’m am commenting way too much on this post, never the less:

        Have to wonder how much being lauded as the “young, new, strong” generation 40-50 years ago has made accepting old age difficult for the now 60-somethings. What you describe seems perfectly normal, or at least reasonably expected. Are we to now decide life isn’t worth living because we’re no longer ‘young and strong ‘? Has “don’t trust anyone over 30” become “best to drop dead when you can’t fake being 30 anymore” ? And if so, why? (No disrespect to your situation or decision making. ) And if that is the case (an “if, I admit) then “Eff..” the people that would say so.

    3. Waldenpond

      Not your age (yet), but I know I will not only won’t have life extending procedures, I have only a very modest home to leave to two offspring. That’s it. I have to decide between a mortgage for cancer treatment or non-treatment.

      1. witters

        Neoliberals blather on about “freedom as choice”, and “the more choices the better”.

        Absolute rubbish.

        There are choices (“Sophie’s Choices”) that no-one should EVER have to make (“I have to decide between a mortgage for cancer treatment or non-treatment.”)

        There are choices that are fine if one person so choices, but not it everyone does (“Tragedy of the Commons”.)

        And there are plain BS choices which simply waste your time (“Which of these 17 brands of frozen peas offers the best value?”)

        In all these cases freedom-of-choice is life damaging.

      1. Anti-Schmoo

        I was unemployed and broke; Bush had just gone to war against Iraq and I swore I’d leave.
        Four weeks later I applied for a job in Thailand with an American toy company. Two weeks after that I landed in Bangkok. The rest is history and I’m still here.
        Cheers and best of luck…

    1. Praedor

      The good news to take away from that map: highest mortality/shortest life expectancy is in the red state South. The WORST of the worst, politically, culturally, religiously are also the most likely to die of all causes. Likely heavily due to all that GOP-loved polluting and raping of the environment, plus the self-immolation from repeatedly voting to shoot themselves in the foot by going whole hog for rightwing gutting of education, worker safety, job protections, etc.

      With luck they will depopulate themselves enough for the rest of the country to fix things before they too are dragged down in the red vacuum.

      1. Jagger

        And if anybody wonders why the democratic party is dead in the south, just reread Praedor’s post. It is not only Hillary that has complete contempt for the “deplorables”.

        1. jrs

          But it’s also actually objectively true that the South is the worst politically (from the death penalty to right to work). Religion and culture, eh to the extent that the culture leads to those politics maybe, but there are likely some good parts culturally (if southern hospitality has any truth), but *politically* I don’t think he’s wrong.

          1. Katharine

            Unfortunately, it’s quite likely the higher mortality is experienced most by the people who have already been most victimized by the politics, and things like gerrymandering and barriers to voting are not “their own fault” so it wouldn’t be true to say they are getting what they deserve.

      2. John k

        My mothers and her six siblings left w va during the war, thankfully never moved back. That and Ky have chem and coal plants. I remember 60 years ago driving by charleston, totally polluted.

      3. flora

        So, you do realize that a lot of these states have a very high percentage of African American citizens? You wish them early death? What group are you trying to “depopulate”?

        1. flora

          adding: per the map linked, the worst health and death rates are in the county Ogalala Lakota, South Dakota – home of the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, home of the Ogalala Sioux. You remember Pine Ridge, don’t you? And you suggest “these” people deserve what they get? The poorest of the poor and the most disenfranchished?…. wow…..

      4. neo-realist

        The red state South likes that fatty greasy artery clogging BBQ as well.

        If they die young, they chalk it up to god’s will.

        1. beth

          Aka, the “deplorables”. So you agree with Hillary. This attitude is only adding to our stress and anxiety. Also you are generalizing that everyone in the South thinks alike. Some of us moved south when the leveraged buy-out firms removed our rust belt jobs.

      5. reslez

        > rightwing gutting of education, worker safety, job protections, etc

        The people who actually control the South, the 1%, aren’t going to die off early. They’re the ones who created the conditions you deplore.

        Think you’re safe? Check out Wisconsin, used to be as blue as you can imagine. Look at it now.

      6. fajensen

        With luck they will depopulate themselves enough for the rest of the country to fix things before they too are dragged down in the red vacuum.
        That is what we said about the middle east, “… ohh, no worries, the islamist problem will solve itself when the nutters kill each other off … ” see how well that turned out?

        Shitty lives just create even more shitty people to compensate for the losses.

    2. JohnnySacks

      I don’t understand the details driving that map. Wouldn’t a flat or decreasing population, caused by either lower birth rates or people leaving, cause a higher number of per-capita deaths? I would think that in economically depressed regions, anyone who could would relocate to areas where the economy is more robust. On the other hand, those who stay for whatever reason I assume would be subject to the negative aspects of poverty and despair.

  5. Ruben

    If more women are dying young then the life expectancy of women will decrease regardless of what happens to the survivors at old age. So maybe young women of middle and upper-middle income are dying more robustly than young men in the same income groups?

    1. Waldenpond

      Dying seems contra to robust…. are you referring to physical robustness versus mental robustness and death to illness versus suicide?

      1. Ruben

        Sorry, I meant the death rate is higher, stronger in young women of middle, upper-middle level. “Robust” for a death rate was probably not the best choice of adjective, too technically detached for the subject.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      That’s an interesting point, and I should have considered it.

      But I haven’t heard anything re young middle to upper middle class women dying at higher rates, so I assumed middle aged and older women were the cause.

      1. Oregoncharles

        They might be taking more risks, because equality, or partying harder, also at a considerable price. Worth checking out. Early deaths have the biggest effect on life expectancy.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Afterthought: This makes me think of a young friend, about 40 and very athletic – a good example of a risk-taker. Modified: she gave up rock-climbing when she realized how dangerous it was, now is more into biking and hiking. But she’s taking another kind of risk: a young professional, she cashed in job, house, and husband so she could resume traveling full time.

          That means she has a lot less cushion if something goes wrong. No children, so she doesn’t have that potential problem, but if she has an accident she could be in real trouble. She thinks it’s worth it.

          How common is this approach?

          1. Oregoncharles

            thanks, moderator: I wasn’t at all sure these got posted properly – they didn’t show up as normal. Had trouble with an accidental, attempted double post.

  6. PlutoniumKun

    Here in Europe, there has been an expectation of a tightening up of the differences in life expectancy between men and women based on a merging of bad lifestyle choices, specifically smoking and drinking. Men are smoking less and drinking a little less, women are smoking much more and are drinking far more, especially allowing for womens greater vulnerability to alcohol toxins. There has also been a drop in the mortality rate in the workplace, which overwhelmingly impacts on men, who tend to work in the dangerous occupations. I know a few medical experts who say they expect a significant worsening in female death rates soon, entirely based on smoking and drinking rates among women. I’m always a bit suspious of comments on female drinking and smoking as there is often a bit of a moral agenda hidden behind them. However, the figures that I’m aware of don’t show the tightening occurring as clearly as expected a few years ago- in fact, over the decades there has been in many European countries a steady increase in the difference, although this seems to have stopped and reversed slightly.

    My mother used to joke that the way for a woman to live longer was to become a nun – she’d say not having a stressful husband or children to deal with was bound to prolong life. I was thinking of that a few months ago at the funeral of an aunt, a nun for all her life in an order that mostly worked in Africa, which she loved. She was 92 and I was (demography nerd that I am) making some mental calculations on life expectancy looking at the headstones in the convent graveyard. The average death rate wasn’t that far off that expected for women who’d made it to 65 (around 84 in Ireland), so I guess that disproved my mothers theory. That aunts two older sisters are still alive, btw, one just had her 100th birthday. Both had families and worked all their lives, well past retirement age (business and farming).

    To relate anecdotes, I think luck and personal circumstances can have a huge impact. I’ve two female relatives in the US with contrasting situations. One is desperately worried about her retirement – she is a well paid lawyer, but she got a divorce under Texan law which is (according to her) very anti-professional women – her less well paid ex-husband has reaped most of the benefits of her savings. An older single relative in NY who worked as a nurse all her life is in a much better situation. By her own admission a combination of very good luck with her home (buying an apartment in the 1980’s in a poor area of Manhattan which has gentrified leaving her with a very valuable asset) has left her facing a very comfortable situation. As a medical professional she is well covered for illness and has the additional comfort (I know several Irish-Americans who openly admit to this) that she can fall back on her EU citizenship and access to much cheaper retirement homes and care if needed, simply by catching a flight and dusting off their old passports.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Her ex-husband’s mother is, apparently, one of the top divorce lawyers in Dallas. Big mistake not taking that into account as my cousin admits!

      2. barb

        yes Harrold, I’ll bet this woman never considered a pre-nup as I am sure you would find most women don’t think they cay or should (social pressure). Women are just starting to have to consider such a thing as in the past, they usually stayed home to care for him and the kids and depended on the working spouse.

        1. Oregoncharles

          My lawyer niece DID propose a pre-nup, for her husband’s protection, but he refused. In the end, he left her; I don’t think there were a lot of assets to fight over, at least that I heard about.

  7. LT

    I’d actually expect the life expectancy for single women, without chronic illnesses, to be very high. Very.

    1. Waldenpond

      Without chronic illness is the tell. Region, access to clean water, food, healthcare, wages, wealth accumulation, community relations, community enrichment, social connections etc.

      Yes, individuals with access to wealth and the positive benefits of a society will live longer. Those without, not so much.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Single women are much less well off financially and as you can see from the chart, financial standing has a great deal to do with lifespan.

      Also women who have never had children are more likely to get breast cancer, while one in every seven single mothers goes bankrupt.

    3. Oregoncharles

      I imagine they’re thinking of well-known statistics on the effects of marriage: married men live longer, married women less long.

      And not having children removes a risk factor – which doesn’t help single mothers. Yves provided some other counter-factors. Another is loneliness, which doesn’t increase longevity.

  8. Julian

    It’s probably more simple. Most likely lifespan as it relates to health(care) is unchanged or marginally positive, but the share of (middle and upper class) men working in physically hazardous occupations has declined significantly (even a factory floor supervisor runs some physical risk).

    As far as I know there is no reason why men and women should have different lifespans (more than a year or two) other than more risk-taking behaviour and hazardous occupations, reducing lifespan for men.

    While there are health concerns, these are most likely not very gender-specific. Maybe men are just less likely to engage in hazardous activities, also in their free time (I mean, back in the day guys used to cut their own trees and sometimes those would fall on them, whereas these days… well you get the picture).

    1. jgordon

      “As far as I know there is no reason why men and women should have different lifespans”

      Men who live with women are more stressed out and miserable. This leads to a much shorter life for them. Ergo, the more divorced, single people there are the longer men’s lives will be. Just my anecdotal experience of me and every married vs. single guy I happen to know.

      1. divadab

        Actually, married men live longer than single men. And not just because it seems longer.

        Sorry if you are the exception that proves the rule – boy, living with another human is stressful, isn’t it? Better to live in a box by yourself.

        1. The Heretic

          ‘Actually, married men live longer than single men. And not just because it seems longer.’

          ? +5

      2. Waldenpond

        I think that’s flipped. Men live longer when married. Women shorter. Likely related to other stresses than just being a man or woman.

      3. Yves Smith Post author

        Sorry, marriage is an institution set up for men. That is why fewer women WANT to remarry than men (see Pew study I linked to). Some women are nevertheless able to make it work well for them.

        A college roommate (married!) loved to cite a study that showed the happiest groups, in descending order, were:

        Married men
        Single women
        Single men
        Married men.

        1. fritter

          I don’t think its all that advantageous for men. I think it depends on how independent you are to begin with, and who you choose as a partner. I know several people who just can’t handle not being in a relationship. Absent particular advantages for men, it might be that they appreciate their better halves more than women ;-) or at least not being alone.

          I thought the higher mortality rate for men, besides riskier jobs was related to not seeking medical care. A friends dad lost a finger working in a mine. Medical treatment consisted of “Oh, well that’s not coming back”. black electrical tape to close the wound and tossing the lost digit on the coal carrying conveyor. He says they were tougher back then. I’d say they were drinking heavily on the job, but who knows. Supposedly he finished the rest of his shift. That kind of thinking has changed for men (at least in my case) and probably figures into the better LE. If both genders were inclined to get less care for financial reasons, that would explain the numbers being what they are.

        2. jgordon

          That is not correct. Unlike in the past, there is currently no benefit in marraige for men. A woman can divorce a man on a whim for cash and prizes and meanwhile men still have zero security that she’ll be either faithful to him or pleasant to live with. Why even get married at all?

          1. fritter

            I don’t think so. Absent kids or a long marriage women don’t get much either. My own 7 year marriage ended and I found myself shocked that she wasn’t entitled to much of anything. Its not the get rich scheme that its made out to be, at least in some cases. Like where you lose everything when an employer goes south.

              1. Waldenpond

                Men don’t ask. That needs to change:
                It is improving, women are driving some change:
                [Unlike child support, which is common when divorcing couple has kids, alimony awards have always been very rare, going from about 25% of cases in the 1960s to about 10% today….In one study of Wisconsin cases, she found it was only 8.6%…..

                “It’s unfair for men to pay it, and unfair for women to pay it. But women are much more outraged by it,” ]

                Just as I would rather have single payer for individuals, I’d rather have JG and UBI and eliminate some of the random, arbitrarily enforced social structures.

          2. reslez

            Women are still expected to do the bulk of the housework and manage all social, family, and medical interactions for the household. This explains why unmarried men have much poorer health outcomes — they don’t have an unpaid social secretary to manage their affairs and doctor appointments and care for them when they’re sick. It’s incredibly rare to find men who do this for their wives (though there are some).

            It’s not surprising you’re blind to this since it largely goes unrecognized. Sociologists put it under the rubric of “emotional labor”, a term that makes it even easier to dismiss.

          3. Yves Smith Post author

            Huh? I suggest you look at divorce laws. The UK is where women make out well in divorce. It’s not true in many US states (NY, for instance). And data shows that divorced women are less well off on average than married women.

          4. Irrational

            Yeah, if the woman has the money for a lawyer.
            Otherwise someone who has sacrificed her career to move around with an army husband can get ditched with him wanting half of her 4000 USD savings account for nothing in return despite having a daughter in the marriage. And he wants to deny her and the daughter the right to live in Europe where she is from and might have a chance of a non-minimum wage life. Still hope the b****** does not get away with this.
            Do not want to denigrate the army, but I am kind of emotional about this assault on a woman’s rights.

        3. Harry

          Is it just me or do married men get to have their cake and eat it too? Top and bottom of list ? I assume typo.

  9. Sandy

    Regarding your anecdotes I just see it as evidence that regardless of gender, dedicating life to work/profession/achievement just doesn’t work. American culture at its core is unsustainable and leads to unhappiness whether you “win” it or not.

    1. jrs


      and because of age discrimination etc. it’s no more likely to last than dedicating one’s life to one’s physical beauty and other messages than women get.. At least if one dedicates one’s life to one’s kids they might visit in one’s old age ….. maybe.

    2. Waldenpond

      Try and accumulate wealth to make it through the elder years…. makes a person a target. There is always someone trying to get a piece of the action.

      How to shift things for differing groups though is a challenge. How to get individuals who have been forced into a lifetime of ‘individualism’ to seek co-living to reduce expenses? Just getting someone to accept a base level of companionship is difficult.

  10. Jim Haygood

    Something is wrong with the FT chart. Taking the middle income (red) line as the average, it shows men with a life expectancy of 83 years; women with 82.5. This cannot be true.

    From an authoritative source:

    Between 2013 and 2014, life expectancy at birth for the total U.S. population (78.8 years), males (76.4), or females (81.2) did not change.


    That’s a life expectancy gap of 4.8 years in favor of women. Life insurers, whose profits depend on getting this bet right, use actuarial tables which reflect this gender-based difference in life expectancy.

    The FT chart looks to be approximately correct for women, but inflated by about 5 years for men. As a first pass, change the vertical scale on the men’s chart to 70-90 in place of 75-95, and it would roughly fix it. This is probably the graphics department’s error.

    Who you gonna trust — the CDC, or some frayed-collar MSM journo peddling a colorful graphic that doesn’t even reveal a data source?

    1. Ken Lieb

      Second this comment. Something does not seem quite right with the charts cited. As i read it, it shows a substantial difference in life expectancy in favor of men–several years–in the “upper middle” quintile.

    2. Steven Greenberg

      Why would making the men’s chart have a different scale from the women’s chart “fix” anything?

    3. Jim Haygood

      From the study that the FT graphic was derived from:

      For presentation purposes we use life expectancy at age 50 as a convenient and widely understood summary measure.

      If the calculation is carried out by gender, then anomalies arise. In the committee’s estimates/projections, life expectancy is slightly lower for females than males in the 1960 cohort.

      Although a narrowing of the male-female life expectancy difference in the future is plausible, it is not plausible that male life expectancy will be higher than female, and this outcome is not consistent with the SSA projections. Thus, one must interpret the gender-specific results with caution.

      Estimates of mortality differences by income for females are often unstable or present other problems (Waldron, 2007; Bosworth and Burke, 2014). Analysts typically focus on results for males.


      Translation: it’s bullsh*t, and we admit it ourselves.

      How does twaddle like this get published?

      *shaking my head* [the big one, not the little one]

      1. Oregoncharles

        ” in the 1960 cohort. ”

        What happened in the 60s? Yes, I do remember. Maybe the numbers are era-specific.

    4. Yves Smith Post author

      Jim, you should know better. You have no idea how big any of those cohorts are. You are probably assuming they are quintiles when the fact that they have “upper middle” versus “richest” says they aren’t. “Richest” probably is the 1% and “upper middle”” is probably the 90th to 99th percentile.

      If they are basing the cohorts on some sort of notion of lifestyle, the chart would reflect the hollowing out of the middle class. So you could easily have only 20-25% in the “middle” group by the present day.

  11. jgordon

    “Could it have to do with rising divorce rates and/or more unmarried women? Men are more likely to remarry than women. Singles who are older than the pairing-up years…”

    Viewing this article through my own ideological prism, it struck me immediately that your sentence inadvertently left out agency from the divorce equation. Just to rectify that, statistics do show that women initiate divorces around 70% of time:


    It does sort of make me wonder why so often women choose to trade in their men for cats when it’s so psychologically and socially damaging.

    As noted above divorce tends to be beneficial for men. So what is even better for men than divorce? Not getting married at all! Public service message: MGTOW – YouTube. At least do some research before you make the biggest mistake of your life.

    1. reslez

      Women initiate divorce because they correctly perceive their health and happiness will improve if they exit a failed relationship. Men don’t suffer as greatly as women from stressful marriages.

      Men who have marital partners also live longer than men without spouses; men who marry after age 25 get more protection than those who tie the knot at a younger age, and the longer a man stays married, the greater his survival advantage over his unmarried peers.


      None of the above is true for women.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Wow, you really don’t like women, do you? An attitude not likely to lead to good relationships.

      According to a Pennsylvania State University study, these are the top 10 reasons why women divorce:

      1. Infidelity
      2. Incompatible
      3. Drinking/Drug Use
      4. Grew Apart
      5. Personality problems
      6. Lack of communication
      7. Physical or mental abuse
      8. Loss of love
      9. Not meeting family obligations
      10. Employment problems

      Surprisingly financial problems was thirteenth on the list, which goes to show you that fighting over money all the time (or lack of money) is NOT one of the primary causes of divorce.


      1. jgordon

        I don’t dislike rattlesnakes for being rattlesnakes, nor do I have any ill will for women for being women. We all have the roles that life and the universe assigned to us, and to accept reality is to be content with the Dao.

        Also as the OP was about the unfortunate fact that women are dying off–I will respond to that from the point of view of an alien ideological framework that might illuminate things a bit more than your current framework that is causing undue upset and confusion. I will posit here that it’s our gynocentric culture and the feminist ideology pervasive therein that is causing the general unhappiness and early dying off of women today.

        For the article you found, note that that was a gynocentric publication written by women and for women. Also, the “research” cited is from a university known to be staffed with ideologically radicalized feminists in positions of power. I would assert that anything they produced that did not paint women in the absolute best light possible would get everyone involved fired.

        The particular study in question has a very interesting bias inherently built into it: it only asked women about their opinions. As MGTOWs and red pillers in general understand very well, women have unmatched ability when it comes to manipulating social perception and deflecting accountability from themselves. Getting a woman to admit that she did something wrong is like seeing a unicorn, and yet here we have an ostensibly academic institution basing “research” around what women told them. I had to laugh at the absurdity of it.

        Let’s just ignore what women say to justify their bad behavior for a moment and look at the real biological reasons women do what they do:

        1. Hypergamy
        2. Briffault’s Law
        3. Solipsism

        If you apply this three part rubric you can understand and predict how women will react in any given relationship situation. Of course I do believe that some women have the mental fortitude and self discipline to go against these instincts enough to react in unpredictable ways, however the feminist gynocentric culture we live in today has told women that their feelings are important and that they don’t have to be responsible or disciplined about anything. As a result women are mostly feral and toxic to men at this point in time.

        Lastly we live in a dying culture and in a dying society. If you look back at Rome immediately before its collapse you’ll find exactly the same sorts of loss of gender identity and celebration of perversion that we have today in America. But rather than the cause per se, I’d say that it’s more a symptom/sign that things will soon come crashing down. Everyone will be increasingly dying off from here on out, and I can’t pick any particular group to have sympathy for. But yes, it is sad that women have to go through this.

  12. CitizenSissy

    I think everyone can find like-minded cohorts with a little effort. IMHO Isolation and despair are almost as deadly as cancer, etc.

    Going to get really interesting in the next few years when a tidal wave of Boomers with degenerative age-related issues runs into the tender mercies of US Healthcare in the 401k era with very little, if any, retiree healthcare benefits.

    Cared for both parents until their deaths. Dad was in the last wave of corporate retiree largesse, so in that respect we were very lucky. And it was STILL a stretch.

    1. oho

      >IMHO Isolation and despair are almost as deadly as cancer, etc.

      ding, ding.

      TL;DR. stress can wreck your immune system.

      Just as you can literally die of a broken heart, you can literally lose the will to live.

  13. Larry

    This would suggest that not only is living in older age precarious for women in more affluent cohorts, but the women are also finding less meaning in their lives outside of their careers. I’ll bring one more anecdote to the table that tells the opposite tale. My mother was a public teacher, primarily elementary. She cashed in her early pension to open up a business with my now deceased father. The business didn’t go well and my father was a bit of a dead beat who didn’t contribute much to the family. My mother returned to teaching and finally retired early and when the top down approach in education became too much to bear. As she said, she went into teaching to help kids, not to help kids take a standardized test and listen to dogma from state officials and superintendents. Her early pension cash out from before and her early retirement means that she has a relatively meager pension compared to others in her cohort who taught for 40+ years. But she lives in a subsidized apartment in Northampton, MA and helps with family (including mine), volunteers at the senior center, local schools, and food bank and takes in all the cultural attractions that Western, MA has to offer (college events, reduced price practice concerts at Tanglewood etc). She is also involved in politics having campaigned for Bernie and against expanding Charter schools in Massachusetts. To me my mom is a model of finding joy in life when you may not have much. Now partially she has been lucky to find what she has, but I suspect it was less difficult for her to give up her status because it frankly wasn’t that high to begin with as an elementary school teacher. It troubles me that others in loftier stations can’t find a new meaning or purpose to give them value for their lives outside of monetary measures and social status.

    1. nycTerrierist

      Great story about your mother. Sounds like, along with helping kids with their development, she developed the inner resources to engage with the world in meaningful ways, apart from the ‘rat race’. She sounds terrific.
      I find it sad when people of comfortable means can only find value in status. That is true poverty of the spirit. What a waste for them.

    2. CitizenSissy

      Seconded! I often visit family in South Deerfield and Gill, and love Northampton. Would your mom consider an auxiliary daughter? I volunteer!

  14. B1whois

    I am an economically secure white woman and I have no interest in a long life. For me, it’s because I think a dark ages are coming and I don’t want to see that happen to people. I have three children and I’ve told them not to have kids, even though I would love to have grandchildren. I have always been very empathetic, and in my case, empathy may kill me. Too much empathy is why I left the US, and eventually too much empathy may make life not worth living for me. I realize this may sound stupid to many.

    I also fear aging because early onset Alzheimer’s runs in my family, so I want to be sure to take my life while I still have the mental capacity to do so, and not end up like my mother who I watched sink into to dementia. So the there are basically two reasons why I don’t want to live long, one because I expect to lose my mind and two because I expect a very ugly future not worth living in. Climate change, resource competition (famine), antibiotic-resistant superbugs, and plague all look to be impactful over the next 20 years to me.

    1. Eowyn

      Yes, the future does often appear bleak to people who care and possess the ability/desire to look ahead. Cultivating a certain detachment, while still participating in the world around us, helps a lot, as does experiencing the little daily wonders and joys that exist. The search for equilibrium in a shifting world takes daily practice. Peace to you.

    2. From Cold Mounatin

      I had a very good therapist once. She told me I had “too much empathy”. I told her empathy leads us to do courageous things that might benefit society more than they benefit us personally. After a long discussion we saw that empathy was not my problem, but the suffering caused by my empathy was the problem. I learned that my suffering was caused by wanting things to be a way in which they were not. Once I let go of how I wished things were, I still had empathy, but now I suffer a lot less.

      It is your suffering that diminishes your desire for living, not your empathy.

    3. BeekeeperRorie

      B1whois, you can “clean your brain” of aluminum and other heavy metals that don’t belong there to increase your chances against Alzheimers. The herb is cilantro, and should be taken with a good dose of chlorophyl, or with lots and lots of leafy greens to help drag it out of the body. If you take it on it’s own you risk loosening up the toxins to re settle somewhere else in the body. And only do this if you have zero metal in your mouth. You may want to find a biological dentists first for safe removal of mercury from dental fillings. You can read more about it here:

      And I have a terrific biological dentist here in western Mass:


      And certainly there are cheaper biological dentists in other countries, including Mexico and Ecuador.

  15. B1whois

    Here’s another theory, somewhat related to my experience. Perhaps women don’t want to live longer because they’ve been caregiving to parents as they suffer through extended lives of misery. Like me, others may have seen what lies ahead and they’d rather take the exit. A person doesn’t live long if a person doesn’t want to live long.

    1. Anti-Schmoo

      I do want to live long; but only if relatively healthy and of sound mind.
      Too much suffering sucks, not to mention the expense…

    2. pretzelattack

      it can be a tough tough thing. my dad was fortunate to have a massive stroke. my mom had alzheimers. i don’t ever want to go through that.

      1. kareninca

        Haha, no I am not a medical professional. I bought a bunch of them for my dog, who has IBD, to see if her suspicious looking stools had blood in them. You can now buy them online (via Amazon or not) from Pinnacle Labs, which also makes them for doctors’ offices. You do the test at home; no need to send them in. As it turns out, they do not work on dog blood (our vet gave us some surplus dog blood she had to see if it would test positive and it didn’t).

        (I was not trying to fob off something I couldn’t use. I offered her one before we know that about dog blood. Also, I use them myself; I am not eager to have a colonoscopy. They are not as good as a colonscopy but they are very good; Kaiser Permanente uses them for their patients, who only get a colonscopy if the FIT test comes back positive. It is best to use three of them, once a year; three days in a row; that way you’ll be getting a full-system sample).

        They make a great gift. Sort of.

  16. templar555510

    The piece and the comments following it all sound like the very definition of entropy and maybe, just maybe, that’s a planetary wide phenomenon.

  17. Clive

    My mother in law (aged 69) was among the last of what you could look back on as a guilded generation of women (this is arguable, being neither a woman or of that generation I will be ill equipped to make those arguments properly) who had a genuine choice between having a career and not needing to work.

    Now, granted, career options for women who were, say, 25 years old in 1965 were much more limited than they are today. And pay was definitely not equal. However, pay discrimination was starting to be challenged by women working at that time. In the main career options open to women with less open discrimination — teaching, social work, nursing, certain divisions of academia and legal work plus some government jobs — a woman could earn a reasonable wage. Or, if they married a middle class husband, they didn’t need to work to enjoy a middle class lifestyle.

    My mother in law chose the latter. Her husband worked until 65 and got a “60th’s” final salary pension (meaning each year worked entitled you to 1/60th of your final salary so assuming you worked 40 years, which he did, you retired on 2/3rds of your final salary) which, when you died, which he did just before his 70th birthday, a surviving spouse got 2/3rds of that pension as a “widow’s benefit”. Her circle of women friends have similar financial setups. If they gave up work when they had a family, as my mother in law did, they are very comfortable. If they returned to work once their children were teenagers, as some other did, they are almost insanely well off (£40k and even £50k incomes in retirement being the norm). And retirement started at 50 (earliest), 55 (typically) or 60 (absolutely latest and then through choice).

    Conversely, the women I work with or know socially now can only dream such security even if they themselves work. Retirement — not possible until 65 minimum due to pensions equalization as required by equality legislation (guess what, it was equalized upward in terms of retirement age) — is a distant dream for women working today in their fourties. Most have missed out by 5 or so years on the chance to enrol in a final salary (defined benefit) pension scheme so are stuck with defined contribution money-purchase schemes (basically 401(k)’s) with projections averaging 20 or 30% of their average — not final — earnings. They cannot afford to contribute more because of the astronomical cost of home ownership. “Family houses” cost £500k minimum so they take every penny of a dual income household.

    The big hits taken by white men’s income means that more than half of the working women I know are out earning husbands or partners. This adds to both workplace and relationship stresses.

    I am horrified by the number of women who are on medication for mental health issues. The quality of mental health care they receive is pretty woeful from what I can tell — the default response of Primary Care here in the U.K. is to chuck them back out into the community with a cocktail of SSRIs. I am equally horrified by the number who are dependent on alcohol (knocking back half a bottle of “mother’s little helper” (wine) in an evening is so normalized, it seems abnormal not to do so). Then there’s the prescription painkillers. And more than one woman uses street drugs.

    None — and I do mean none — of the 10 or so women I know in my work and social circle are a healthy weight. Most consume far more calories per day then they need because they exist in an obeseogenic environment. They are too tired and too time stressed to follow any meaningful exercise regimen. One is definitely bulimic.

    In summary, I am appalled and at a total loss to explain the dismal predicament that makes up the existence of most women in my age group. By every measure, except perhaps career opportunities, they have significantly more difficult lives and worse health than my mother in law. Worse than that — and the underlying cause — they are economically trapped in their current predicaments. Did you all really burn your bras for this outcome?

    1. Oregoncharles

      “The big hits taken by white men’s income means that more than half of the working women I know are out earning husbands or partners. This adds to both workplace and relationship stresses. ”

      So not coping too well with equality. I’ve seen this in other contexts: young women earning more than most of their male contacts, and both sides confused and frustrated by the situation. This was a predicted, intended consequence; why is it a problem?

    2. Trixie from Dixie

      Maybe it’s the despair they feel once they realized that their gender was responsible for the origin of…. “sin”! Scapegoats don’t have an easy life!

  18. hreik

    My 2 cents. TL: DR;
    Background information may help. I am a woman w an advanced degree (M.D.) and live on the east coast. I am married to a physician and have 2 children and 5 siblings, one sister and 4 brothers. Three of the sibs are on the east coast. I am 68, mostly retired but counsel people whose loved ones have dementia of any kind. My mom lived to be 95, the last 15 with Alzheimers disease. Despite one of my siblings living 15 minutes from her, I (living 2 hours away) got the lion’s share of the work and ended up being her guardian for the last 8 years of her life. I had to go to court to get guardianship b/c one of my brothers (a lawyer living 2000 miles from mom) refused to relinquish his ‘authority’. The first year after my sister handed off her care I traveled to where mom lives 22 times, for extended stays with 2 huge Newfoundland dogs, one of whom had diabetes. I sh*t you not. My husband was very supportive and tolerated this. Our 2 children were out of the house by then. It was exhausting…

    My mom had enough money to stay in her outsized house but not forever. IT was falling apart but patients w dementia have a very hard time adjusting to any new environment unless that new environment is introduced early in the disease… when it’s not needed. I had decided to try to keep her at home, b/c it was best for her. Several of my siblings, who did none of the work, NONE, wanted her to be placed. I refused. Then when she ran out of money about 18 months b/f the end, some of them fought not to pony up. (They would ALL be reimbursed after the sale of the house, which despite it’s decrepitude, was in a fantastic location and worth enough)..

    These details are actually important b/c they are replicated over and over and more so in the lives of women caring for any family member: having to fight a sibling for authority, doing the lion’s share if not ALL the work, being tapped out emotionally and physically ALL the time. And most of them do NOT have the financial resources we had. The combination of my struggle even WITH the needed financial resources was depleting in a way I cannot adequately relate. Largely I feel b/c it was a loved one. Caring for an ill parent, child, spouse, sibling, or even beloved extended family member is exhausting and depleting… but a necessity for most and in some ways (if you have the financial resources) a kind of honor. My mom and i had never had a close or even good relationship but I felt strongly she should be properly cared for… and I did my best.

    Now imagine doing this w/o the financial resources. Most woman who do so, have to quit their jobs or place their loved one. The emotions are deep and simultaneously exhausting. Also, caregiving is hugely isolating. One is perennially too exhausted to go out, even when the opportunity presents itself.

    My friend in GA (about 30 minutes outside of ATlanta) who is poor and was going through exactly this, had her mom move in with her. Her mom used to shit in the planters in the house. Take 1 full hour to eat a turkey sandwich with coaxing. My friend had a job at McDonald’s at the time….. she couldn’t manage. So she quit. After her mom died she had some back surgery, was dropped on the floor by an aide who was supposed to be helping her walk. Her health spiraled downward. She got a small settlement from the hospital but was more recently back in with a flurry of complicated medical issues. She’s 5 years my junior and was ready to die. Also b/c she has an infirm husband at home. There are scanty resources for her and almost no help…. She has one child helping who lives at home and took in a boarder (for free) in exchange for help in the house.

    I agree with the empathy part. Those of us who do this, have too much (empathy). I wouldn’t have it any other way but it’s deeply exhausting even if it is deeply humanizing and helps your soul. Is it worth it? I dunno.

    1. Eowyn

      Your experience and that of your friend resonate deeply with me. My younger sister is Mom’s caregiver. It is a nearly full-time job for her and I see the toll it has taken. About all I can do, living 1200 miles away, is to send money and give her a break when my own work schedule permits. I am concerned that my sister may have an early death due to the stress of the situation. We have talked many times about putting Mom in assisted living. She doesn’t want to go, and my sister frankly needs the money that Mom and I pay her to be the caregiver. To make matters worse, my mother does not even try to be independent or have any appreciation for the excellent care she has. She has been a lifelong example to me of how not to live your life. It has been a big motivator.

      1. hreik

        Well, if sis needs the money, then let her be. If she’s doing all the work and is being paid, it may work for her now. And I understand about your mom being a lifelong example of how not to live your life. In my situation, sadly mom and I got along better when she was demented than when not. Her defenses disappeared and the ‘untraumatized’ little girl reappeared. She was then easy to love. Bizarre and sad but somehow redemptive.

        1. gepay

          my mother was the same way, once demented, she stopped being judgemental – sweet to be around except for the loss of short term memory. My youngest sister who was her favorite took care of her – then assisted care – till 92. My sister’s husband used mother’s money to make money(puts and calls) so I guess it was not unfair. My wife died at 70 from COPD. she started smoking at 15. I took care of her the last years. she was on oxygen 24/7 and didn’t go out. Her memory was gone. She died at home as I was helping her to bed. . yes she had worked all her life (mostly as a teacher) and made much more money than I (musician- jack of all trades) – it does help when raising kids to have someone with a flexible schedule. Fortunately Social Security treats men and women equally so my SS increased when my wife died. Her pension disappeared but my house is paid for so I am fine.

          1. hreik

            Thank you for sharing your perspective and your story. And thanks for caring for your wife at home. Many men do not do that. For whatever reason…. I’m not judging it, just expressing a fact and giving a curtsy to you. Thanks

  19. Sam Adams

    Isolation will reduce lifespan. Being in a large group one can be as isolating.
    Generations ago women had extended communities and outreach, with the rise of work/salaried/wage earning the communities have withered away and the outreach has contracted.

    1. Jagger

      I talked to a lady whose mother died of alzheimers and her mother stayed with her until the end. At the time I was astounded but she had extended family in this rural area. Effective family help can make quite a difference. My father is now in late mid-stage and it is just a nightmare. Very difficult. And it doesn’t get better. I do admire the lady was able to keep her mother out of a nursing home but it must have been a tremendous challenge.

      1. Katharine

        I think in some ways late mid-stage can be harder than a little later, because there are all sorts of perceptual difficulties, time disruptions, and incomprehensible short-term obsessions, like the time (in the middle of the night) when my father lined up several lamps in the upstairs hall and then started trying to pull a fixture off the wall to add to them. It was the fright at what that could have done that finally convinced my mother she would have to find a place for him instead of home, and she was not a nervous woman. He got a bit quieter a little later, quieter in mind somehow, but still accessible if progressively less verbal.

        Nightmare is probably an understatement, I suspect. Good luck!

  20. johnnygl

    I’m going to throw out a reason based on nothing more than speculation and the anecdotes told here. Women’s lifespans are flat-falling because of the rise of chronic illnesses which require labor-intensive care-giving. Providing long-term help with chronic illnesses is a huge source of stress and emotionally draining. It makes sense that it would affect all classes except the richest because they can afford to get help.

      1. JohnnyGL

        Yikes, brutal….my mother is in her 70s and I’m guessing she’ll live at least 5 years less because of the tremendous stress from taking care of my younger sister during repeated rounds of cancer. My father has been much less obviously affected and been much less involved in care-giving.

        1. hreik

          JohnnyGL, yes, it is the emotional toll which is not measurable yet deeply affecting. Thanks for reading my long comment.

          1. Elizabeth

            @hreik, your story certainly resonated with me. I was my mother’s primary caregiver until she passed away at age of 100. She was semi-independent (could dress herself, feed herself) but I was responsible for all the supportive activities of living – shopping, paying bills,chauffeuring her around to various appointments. She had dementia, but always knew who people were. Doing this kind of work is totally draining emotionally and physically. My younger sister never bothered to come visit for more than 2 days, or offer to help me in any way – like taking a week off to just do nothing!

            I was determined to keep my mother at home amid her familiar surroundings and neighbors she liked to see. One day she fell, and never recovered and ended up bedridden for two months before she passed away.

            In spite of all the exhaustion, frustration, and sometimes tension, I don’t regret anything. My mother and I used to sit and drink tea, and it was somehow so comforting just to be with her. I miss her and look back on all the memories we shared (good and bad).

            I certainly think extended caregiving can take a toll on someone’s life – there are studies that show that caregivers end up with more medical issues v. non-caregivers. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  21. PKMKII

    Anecdote time: Little more than a year ago, woman I knew died at a relatively young age, 50’s. Husband hasn’t remarried but is dating. Her cancer recurred, couldn’t beat it the second time around.

    Observation many in her family made is that she wasn’t seeing a cancer specialist to keep tabs on recurrence; it was a blood doc, and not seeing him frequently either. Which dovetails with what kimyo said: inadequacies in the healthcare system (also, the cancer was related to her aesthetics routine). Obesity-related illness have their own set of causes, but women dying at an increased clip from things like the flu says to me that they either don’t have regular access to healthcare, or the care they’re receiving is intermittent and/or of low quality. More middle-income women are working, which means less time to see a doctor, and when they do it’s more likely to be a treat-and-release where you’re not seen in the long-term sense. Compare that to the women a generation or two ago would be seeing their general, a dying breed among doctors these days, who would be paying more attention to their health trends and not just looking at a snapshot in time.

  22. tegnost

    That chart provides a stark contrast. For myself if I can’t work I die (neolib rule #2), as do those I care for who’ve been left out. Ever hope your friends die of natural causes rather than suicide? Pretty common thought for me which causes some weird mental gyrations. Just yesterday I was watching an elderly person cross the street slowly and wondering who’s going to hire me then? I don’t go to the doctor . What for? If society won’t pay me to make a living I don’t want to have my life unnaturally extended so the government can use me as a proxy to funnel money into the sickcare industry. Also on this topic many “accidental” deaths from xanax or oxy in a toxic mixture with booze are actually suicides, as someone else has likely pointed out above… I had a major injury some years ago and know first hand how people run away from you.

  23. Eclair

    Interesting data observations: rich men now have longer life expectancies than rich women. And, rich people just live longer than poor people. And, according to a recent article in The Journal of Health Affairs, the wealthy now spend more, per capita, on health care than the poor, a reversal of historical trends (this does not hold for the Medicare cohort, however).

    So, we are now living in a society where to be rich and male (and, probably, white) is hugely to be desired. I think we might have achieved, officially, the status of an ‘oligarchic patriarchy.’

    I thought it might be interesting to check out some studies on life expectancy in Sweden, since they are a relatively egalitarian society with universal health care. I could find only one study, in a hasty search; there are now more men in Sweden than woman. It could be because men’s life expectancies are increasing more rapidly than woman’s (males moving from dangerous jobs to safer white collar careers) or it might be due to the influx of young male immigrants (a touchy subject).

    For years, I have held my mother’s cousin, Kay, as a role model of growing old (mid-90’s) and enjoying it. She never married and had a long career, starting as a lowly secretary in an investment bank, and becoming its head HR person. She was fortunate to have purchased a condo located in a prime Boston location and she was a devoted aunt to her sister’s large brood. She never owned a car. Mornings, she would go to a yoga class, return home and enjoy a cup of well-brewed coffee. Every evening, before dinner, she would have one Scotch and water, sipped slowly with enjoyment.

    So … work that you enjoy, a ‘home’ that you can call your own, a family/social network/support system, regular exercise, i.e., walking, moderate indulgence in drugs (where ‘drugs’ equates to stuff you ingest that is not absolutely necessary for sustaining life, but is pleasurable and gives you a sense of well-being.) Good genes help: her mom, who also lived to her mid-90’s, was famous for hopping up on the table and dancing a hornpipe, at family weddings and funerals.

    1. JEHR

      “I think we might have achieved, officially, the status of an ‘oligarchic patriarchy.’

      After this past election, do you have any doubts???

  24. Roger C

    I first noticed this four years ago and posted What’s Killing American Females. http://www.realitybase.org/journal/2013/2/11/whats-killing-american-females.html I collected information from a variety of sources including Lane Kenworthy, Deaton & Case, Robert Waldman, Journal of Health Affairs, National Academy of Sciences, and Naked Capitalism. I came away thinking the decline in female life expectancy is real and that it varies greatly by region, education, and income. Also, there are indications that most of the loss of years of life expectancy occur by the end of middle age, not after age 75.

  25. JEHR

    I am 77 years old and that is almost the same age as my mother was when she had a heart attack. She lived 5 years after by-pass surgery but they weren’t good years. She worried all her life about having dementia but did not fail mentally.

    My big fear also is dementia, I fantasize about just walking off into the winter woods to die rather than to inflict that pain on anyone else. I’ll just need the courage. I do not want to live past when my health fails and without dementia I will know when that time arrives.

  26. RS

    The most obvious interpretation of the FT chart is that women have had the “normal” human life expectancy since 1980 and are still having it, whereas men, who used to live much shorter lives for whatever reasons, are now starting to catch up with women. I assume this is a combination of things: Reduced smoking, reduced crime rate (perhaps because of the reduction of lead in the environment), better workplace safety, and better health screening, and other things as well.

    Rather than seeing this chart as a tragedy for women, it should be seen as a happy development for men!

    1. From Cold Mounatin

      I think this is a typical neoliberal response. “Screw the poor men and women, look at the middle class men, doing so much better!” “Be positive!” And it totally misses the fact that the life expectancy for rich white women has increased dramatically.

      Ugh, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

  27. Penny

    Anecdotes here are very revealing of continued reliance on women for care giving to others regardless of age and so forth. But this care giving is now in atomized/isolated social orders so incredibly stressful.
    Last but not least, the kind of macho-capitalist ineptitude epitomized by Bush Jr and Trump are behind the scenes enablers of women’s higher death rate and the good-old-boy masculo-feminism of Bill the bollocks Clinton just make it worse.

  28. From Cold Mounatin

    The aged are considered useless feeders in America and this effects women more than men. I see a culture that refuses to let women age but affords that same luxury to men (“Dad bod” is a good example). And so, as the money gets tight for the middle class, maybe the botox injections have to stop or there are less trips to the hair salon, etc. So the stress increases more for women, and stress is a killer. And yes, Yves, divorce to me plays a large role, as I have seen the effects that trying to “become sexy again” has on them.

    But I think the stress in women is evident in the amount of Yoga classes that have popped up over the last ten years.

    I am a 50 year old disabled, functionally homeless, male. The stress of my situation…I feel it’s effect on me compared to when I have a stable place to live. So you will often find me meditating in parks. I highly recommend it, since if it can help me so much imagine what it can do for people with a lot less stress than me.

  29. Dita

    This part really stood out, for a couple of reasons:

    “As deaths from car accidents, breast cancer, and murder have declined, women have died in higher numbers from more pedestrian health care problems, such as the flu and respiratory infections…”

    How frequently we’ve experienced respiratory illness at the office, recirculated air rather than fresh, fumes from cleaning products may linger, etc. Also people tend to come in to work rather than staying home when they’re sick. Others won’t take flu shots. The office environment, including the simple act of sitting in a chair, works greatly against one’s health.

    1. Susan C

      When I was a kid in the 50s I would hear over and over again about pneumonia and how horrible it was, life-threatening. Now I see so many younger people who completely ignore respiratory illnesses (too much tv advertising perhaps) and then end up with pneumonia and for a few how they failed to act soon enough. It’s like no one takes pneumonia at all seriously anymore and yet it is out there. For women dying younger today, I always felt it was due to no longer having the lifestyles of our parents, the WW2 generation – where the women were married and taken care of while the men worked. It is those women – some of whom are now into their 90s – who were given an easier life with fewer stresses. Based on some reading I did years ago, it stated it was the US government that decided to make their lives easier after the Depression and WW2 – such as for college and housing after the war. It seemed like once divorce became more popular and women started experiencing financial and life stresses, that illness increased. I think a lot of this lower life expectancy is due to too much stress for women. Especially in this economy. And I am talking about middle class women here. The upper 10% does not have this financial stress.

  30. lezmaz

    There’s a joke in narcitics anonymous that goes like this:

    “what’s the worst thing that can happen to a heroin addict?”

    “an inheritance.”

    When you give a person everything they want and nothing to do, and in some cases, no agency over their lives or money, then isolate them and increase inequality to record levels, you have the ‘sickness that has no name’ on steroids.

    Jane Austen got it right with her rich ladies.

  31. Dave

    “Singles who are older than the pairing-up years, save in a very few blue cities,” Blue Collar? Or Democrat?
    We live in one of the wealthiest and most highly educated counties in America.
    I pay close attention to women in the imponderable quest to figure them out. I’ve noticed patterns. The “this is what I used to look” like comment above is sadly accurate.

    I Use the latest trendy Coffee Spot in a wealthy town as my observation post and also the daily pickup of children through succeeding years of school. It seems like there is so much emphasis on youth, beauty, and thanks to Lulu Lemon see through clothing as well as yoga body whittling, that I believe many ‘older’ women [40+] are ashamed to be seen in public, at least in this kind of venue.

    Money is a socially repugnant dirty word, for those that have it and those that don’t.

    Lots of air travel, carcinogenic makeup, breathing recurring new car smell, pharmasuicidicals, naturally appearing hair dye, frequent x-rays and other pollutants do in a lot of women with wealth around here. It’s usually some weird tumor or breast cancer.

    Meanwhile, working women I know are healthy, hale and very hearty. While unhappy about finances, their medical misfortunes are perhaps a broken arm or a sprained wrist.

    A woman who depends only on her looks is capitalizing on a rapidly depreciating asset. Like exponential interest, the more and more frequent and shorter lived surgical “improvements” destroy the hostess.
    A woman who relies only on her education is probably working herself to death in this environment.

    1. Waldenpond

      Equality…. Mandatory aging requirements are spreading: Men are more often using makeup, botox, hair dye, surgery, spending more on clothing etc (yet, not to the gp?). Some manipulated by propaganda, some by choice to compete in the job market, some by force to gain or maintain access to the job market.

      My guess is some of the men and women that are viewed as hale and hearty…. are passing. By passing, I mean that more are purchasing the public displays of a particular in-group’s wealth in secondary markets (less expensive outlets, thrift stores) to maintain a job that would otherwise be retracted if the truth were known.

      1. Dave

        Men don’t use makeup, hair dye or botox. A few males do.

        You’d have to be crazy to spend $80 at Nordstroms buying a button down shirt when good thrift stores have dozens of them for $3 each. The secret to good but inexpensive living is to dwell around wealthy people and use their castoffs, tax payer funded infrastructure and mostly their public schools. Smart parents, who plan ahead, leave San Francisco for that reason.

      2. jrs

        if the job that would otherwise be retracted doesn’t pay enough to maintain the appearance needed to keep that job (I mean in terms of seeming of a certain class with clothing etc. – age is another matter) then that is a sorry circumstance. The pay should at least justify the dressing the part.

  32. Oregoncharles

    “And notice that the flattening occurred during the period when women were making great strides in the workplace.”

    Don’t know yet where Yves goes with this, but there’s an obvious theory.

    Why would it apply so differently for men and women? Different history and, to this day, different jobs (though less so in the middle and upper-middle ranks.) Men were and are tracked into the more-dangerous and/or more-stressful occupations. (Basic biology: males are expendable.) As a result, they would be more affected by the safety culture that was expanding during that time. At the same time, more women were faced with workplace stresses.

    Caveat: by some accounts, the biggest factor has been smoking, as fewer men smoked and more women took it up. Anybody else remember the “feminist” ad campaign for Virginia Slims?

    Now I’ll stop speculating and read the rest of the article.

    1. Oregoncharles

      On looking again, I think my first line is too cryptic, The obvious theory is that the workplace is killing women in particular. A good portion of the comments above are about that, often indirectly.

  33. Karen

    This is a very moving set of stories that coalesce around some common themes. Women traditionally have been society’s caregivers, a role which many of us find meaningful, even if challenging and often unfair. However, our ability to perform that role has been adversely affected by the competing and intensifying demands of work, lengthening periods of chronic illness among those we care for, and the attendant growing financial stress. Women aren’t caring enough for themselves, as evidenced by increased drinking/smoking/painkillers/antidepressants, lost opportunities for socializing and exercise. The extended family model didn’t look too appealing when we were younger, but now we are realizing what we lost.

    These pressures are very real, even for women with resources to fall back on. I, for one, have developed a deep antipathy for the medical establishment, after a few eye-opening experiences in the past few years. Luckily I’m healthy, and have a satisfying life in many ways. But I will probably still mostly avoid doctors in future, even though I can afford the “care”.

    Lastly, there has been little mention of this by others, but I have very little interest in living in a world dominated by computers, big business, and big government. Talk about alienating!

  34. jerry

    This isn’t surprising at all. Women wanted to become part of this evil corporate machine that literally kills you, and now they have found out the consequences. So in addition to the labor force being doubled and removing that much bargaining power for labor and increasing competition/lowering cost among workers, now we are all equally miserable, yay for equality!

    1. jrs

      oh and no women before were part of a relationship that literally killed them (or near so including domestic violence) in order to survive financially. Besides the fact it’s always paid for, she would have to reproduce whether she wanted to or not etc. (which kills some women too although not that many these days).

      Basic Income, or get out.

  35. Tim

    That data can be simplified, with a hypothesis. People that work “a real job” and especially an “office job” die sooner. In the past it was the men in those roles, but the percentage of women in the workforce, especially “professional jobs” may inversely correlate quite well with life expectancy.

    It used to be possible to have one income supporting a household, but since the 70s that has not been enough, So women went into the work force more, divorce becomes more prevalent because household has much more pressure to get everything done.

    High divorce rates results in parents and women deciding they have to have their own career to ensure financial survival, so they enter the workforce

  36. Moneta

    A while back I found us mortality tables from the 1800s. I was surprised to see a low number of women 55+ vs. then number of men.

    Then I thought it probably made sense considering deaths in childbirth and the role of caregiver exposed to all kinds of bugs.

    It got me thinking that without war, men might live longer…. we typically send our healthiest to war and many who come back end up with all types of ailments. And our mortality tables are still reflecting the ravages of war.

  37. mcarson

    Please consider the Stanford professor (Robert?) Sapolsky’s theory of stress. We talk about diabetes and obesity and high blood pressure as if they are first order illnesses that can be prevented by “correct behavior”. There is research showing that they are stress reactions, persistent daily stress causes obesity, high blood pressure, etc.
    Women have stresses men do not, and care about things they can’t change, or can only change through super-human effort.
    Women often “go without” on a temporary basis, until the crisis passes. What happens when one crisis folds right into the next, or the crisis is only held off by constant action & vigilance?
    This is a theory that explains declining or flat life spans across all income levels.

    1. Karen

      And there’s a good chance these women spend their work hours caring for others, and caring too much in general.

  38. JTFaraday

    I’m don’t even know how to define a “middle class woman.” Where do middle class women get their resources? Even as I consider many, many people I know personally who are superficially so, I’m honestly not sure how one ought to define their class standing.

    1. JTFaraday

      I should add I didn’t read the article yet. No time. Just my reaction as I scan down the post.

    2. Waldenpond

      I thought it was a specific income bracket. Apparently, it’s a lifestyle:

      Canada’s Liberals have done it folks, they’ve managed to divorce ‘class’ from any material basis. It’s a lifestyle!

      [Canada has no official statistical measurement to define “middle class”, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in a reply to an order paper question from Conservative MP Kevin Sorenson Tuesday.

      “Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada defines the middle class using a broader set of characteristics than merely income. Middle-class Canadians can generally be identified by the values they hold and the lifestyle they aspire to. Middle-class values are values that are common to most Canadians and from all backgrounds,” Morneau began an answer.

      “They believe in working hard to get ahead and hope for a better future for their children.]

  39. PQS

    I’m wondering if the simplest answer isn’t the combination of caregiving and a job, full stop. Yes, many women joined the workforce during this time to great success, but they also have had to – almost exclusively – do home chores for all that time and up to the present day. Not for nothing do so many women complain about the lack of division of labor in housework – it’s a real problem and doesn’t appear to be going away. Add in huge houses, the desperate need to keep up with the kind of family life portrayed on TV (endless entertainment, gourmet cooking, wonderfully decorated homes, tons of socializing, etc.) and the women are just worn out. And with no time to attend to their health.

    Caregiving isn’t just confined to elderly parents, either. From the 60s onward, many, many handicapped children were kept at home by changing mores in society and their parents’ wishes. It isn’t any easier to take care of a disabled child than an elderly parent, and it lasts for decades.

    It’s such a double whammy: no support for health or family services, and impossible to live on one income in those places where there might be family support services.

    1. dbk

      Yes, I think this is basically it, although I’m surprised that this situation pertains to upper middle-class women in such a pronounced way.

      I’m not too clear about the income assumed for this group, but the mortality data would suggest that the combination of a number of social and environmental factors has hit this group quite hard: (a) work (increasingly stressful for everyone except the rentier class); (b) running a sophisticated and demanding household (I read a few years ago that in two-parent families with a child or two, women work an average of 20 hours per week in addition to their paying jobs, making for a 60-70-hour-a-week which continues for many, many years, especially if the children are spaced out – I was a full-time worker/mother for 25 years); (c ) care-giving for elderly parents and possibly, others (one has to have pretty well-off parents for them to be able to enter an assisted-living facility that’s actually decent, and many parents refuse to do this even if they can afford it – I took care of my mother-in-law full-time for 18 months, and even with an in-house helper 12 hours a day, I thought I’d die of simple exhaustion; now I return to the U.S. 4-5 months a year to help my own mother, who is frail and failing at 99+, but still has all her faculties and refuses to even consider assisted living).

      And now for my little capitalism rant: if you think about it, modern industrial capitalism relied on unpaid labor – a wife or mother or unmarried sister – to ensure that the male worker was fed, clothed, and cared for so that he could go to the factory/office every day and produce. When women became workers in the same system, household labor still had to be performed, and the lion’s share continued to be done – without remuneration, of course – by women – only now, they were working, just like men.

      Perhaps upper middle-class women are the canary in the coal mine, signalling the encroachment of 1% rent-seeking on a class (the top 10%) which to date has been considered well-protected and secure.

      1. Oregoncharles

        I feel very fortunate that my mother, now 99 and doing surprisingly well, is in a good assisted living place. I’m far away; it’s especially fortunate for my brother who lives in the same town she does. But it’s quite a load off my mind, as well, as I think my parents intended it to be.

  40. Mjaybee

    Older women control the majority of private wealth in this country, have huge legal privileges vs. any other demographic and have the benefit of more government dollars aimed specifically at their health needs than do men.

    In divorce they reap the benefits of these legal privileges. In marriage, their proclivity towards rent-seeking ensures they automatically control a significant amount of wealth without taking the risks needed to earn it.

    In short – they are incredibly privileged in American society.

    I would suggest equality is behind their situation – they are increasingly having to support themselves financially and find the stress and instability of that situation in today’s economy distressing and harmful.

    Men are increasingly wary of the asymmetric contract of marriage – their aversion to the institution may contribute to womens’ distress, as well.

  41. Sluggeaux

    These graphs belie the reality that each one of us experiences life individually — as borne out by the wonderful comments above. People 50 years ago had little prospect of seeing 70. Some of us still won’t. In determining whether we approach life after 60 with optimism or pessimism, I think that the biggest factor for all of us is having sufficient income to maintain a decent quality of life. The neoliberal order has been designed to crush our incomes and to loot our savings while wrecking the quality of our health care, so it has become increasingly difficult to maintain optimism as we age, especially as we are priced out of many places where we might wish to live or visit.

    I just hope that the “friend who is 60” doesn’t happen to go by the initials S.W.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Hah, no among other things I hardly get out :-)

      And she flies around all the friggin’ time. 4 trips to Florida in Jan and Feb, all to speak at or go to conferences.

      1. Sluggeaux

        I’m just back from a brief visit to Florida. I’d also lose my will to live if I had to spend that much time there — or in airports!

  42. lyle

    I suspect that a big piece of this is the drumbeat of apocalyptic news stories we get. We hear the 999 ways the world will end soon on the news which never ever dare give good news because it does not sell. (One big example you never see is the large decline in absolute poverty world wide for example). Also as some have suggested we may be bumping up against the limits of human life span. After all whatever genetic component is part of many chronic diseases was not selected against by evolution, because the diseases show up after the reproductive years and in prior times never showed up because infectious disease got the folks first. The simple first example is obesity which is related to our evolving in a world of food scarcity, (until 1900 or so). indeed because the same issues show up in animals, in particular dogs and cats, it suggests that the ability to survive food scarcity by storing fat for times when food was scarce was an important evolutionary advantage in past times.
    Another point that more and more folks find the aggressive use of medicine to prolong lives results in a zero to negative quality of life and view quality of life more important that quantity of life

  43. 3.14e-9

    Today is my 60th birthday. This post is one of the best gifts I could have received.

    For the past year, my mind has been churning with many of the thoughts expressed in the comments here. I suspected that I wasn’t alone; for much of my adult life, I’ve kept “abnormal” and “seditious” thoughts to myself, only to discover, sometimes years later, that others were doing the same. If only I’d had the courage to write about it, under my own byline and not in an anonymous comment.

    No one in my immediate family has lived past their mid-sixties. Both of my parents died when I was young. The middle of seven children, I’m now the oldest survivor. My “little brother” is right behind me. The past few times we spoke on the phone about our near-term plans, he interjected the caveat, “if I’m still around.”

    I was uniquely career-oriented from an early age and have always been a loner. As a kid, there was nothing I liked better than sitting in my room drawing, sewing doll clothes, and looking through picture books. I wasn’t much of a reader. My dream was to be a fashion designer. There was no way, though, that I was going to go to college. My family was very poor, and anyway, girls were expected to graduate from high school, get a job as bank teller for a few years, then get married and have babies.

    So I joined the Army. It turned out to be the kind of enlightened choice that can be ascribed only to providence. Without that enlistment, I currently would be without healthcare, and I wouldn’t be alive to write this comment. It also allowed me to go to college (G.I. Bill). I was accepted at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but after two semesters abruptly changed direction and went to journalism school in Washington, D.C.

    After several years in full-time reporting, I went freelance. It was a pretty good gig until publishers began cutting costs by laying off personnel. Freelancers were the first to go, and the prospects for getting a staff position were low to none. I left the country for a while – a wonderful experience, but I couldn’t get legal status and had to come back. I resettled in the Northwest and took a series of odd jobs, ending up in a food service position in the merchant marine. Having struggled with my weight all my life, the pounds melted off as a result of being on my feet all day, hefting cases of bottled drinks and swabbing the decks. I hadn’t been in such good shape since running in formation in Army boots.

    Until the back injury. It took more than two years for the liability to be determined, during which time I was laid out flat. Even though the case was settled in my favor, I never fully recovered physically or mentally. Unemployed and unemployable, I applied for disability. That whole process took an additional toll, but it has provided the intended safety net. Still, every day is a struggle, particularly with the rise in housing costs. Nearly 80 percent of my monthly check goes toward rent and utilities.

    I live in a beautiful natural environment, where the air and water are as clean as it gets within 20 miles of a major city. I just don’t know how I can stay here. Moving back East would make the most sense, since what little family I have left is there. My brother lives near a small city in Upstate New York that lost its industries – technically not Rust Belt, although definitely “flyover” (and, not coincidentally, in a red county). Like me, it never recovered from the injury, but due its depressed economy, housing costs are at least a third cheaper than where I am now.

    Moving is expensive, though, and I’d have to do it on credit, since my savings were long ago depleted. Essentially, it would be going into debt to save money, with the risk of not being able to pay it off before disability ends. And that’s assuming it will continue for another two years. Who knows what the Republican Congress will do before then? Likewise, moving requires enormous energy and physical strength, which also are depleted. There’s no credit card for that … although there is an equivalent of declaring bankruptcy. That an increasing number of people consider this a reasonable option is shocking.

    I once a heard a quote about how struggle builds strength and character, but too much struggle destroys a person. Struggling with money is every bit as demoralizing as fighting an incurable disease. (Two sixty-something friends, one male and one female, recently gave up on the latter. Both had the means to pay the medical bills, but opted out rather than enduring painful treatments that would add a few months, at best.)

    The thread that keeps me hanging on (besides my cat, who is not really a cat but a higher being disguised as a 15-pound fur ball), is writing. There is some discussion above about older women who made their careers their lives, and then found when their careers were over that life had no meaning. For me, the opposite is as true as it always was. I still write. I don’t know if anyone is going to read it. I write, even though it takes me two days to produce what I used to bang out in an afternoon (that, and being a late-riser on the West Coast, is why I often post comments after the discussion is effectively over). Even though I’ve given up on making a living on it, I still write.

    Merci mille fois to Yves for this post and to everyone participating in this discussion. Apparently it’s one of the most burning issues of our time. All along, I thought it just me.

    1. kareninca

      “I still write. I don’t know if anyone is going to read it.”

      Well, I just read this. It was really well written. Thank you.

    2. pretzelattack

      you’re not alone. i’ve lost all my close family, over the years. i’m fairly comfortable financially, but the prospect of dying alone in an old folks home does not appeal to me, depending on the kindness of strangers is not a good bet. and at over 60, i’m not working much anymore. i think i have to create my own meaning (as do we all), using what i’ve gathered from coincidence, to paraphrase bob dylan.

      1. 3.14e-9

        depending on the kindness of strangers is not a good bet

        No kidding, pretzelattack. I had to do that quite a bit after the injury, and it was disconcerting, maybe because I’m so independent. But you’re right that it can’t be counted on in a pinch.

        Thanks for the reply and empathy.

    3. Susan C

      Happy Birthday!

      I truly admire your spirit and what you have accomplished in your life – the decisions you have made and the experiences you have collected through living life. And you are such a good writer – easy to visualize what you are saying. I am a writer and analyst and at 66 still find high-paying gigs from time to time which keep food on the table, thank goodness. I moved to the Southwest a couple of years ago where the cost of living is so much lower and nature is so gorgeous that I am still tickled pink that this all came about – it hugely refreshed my soul and spirit. Thank you –

      1. 3.14e-9

        Thank you for the encouragement, Susan. It sounds like you found a great spot, and good for you for finding some high-paying gigs. There aren’t a lot of them out there, with kids willing to write Internet “content” for a fraction of a penny per word. That said, I do have an in with a niche magazine I’ve written for in the past. I just need to get my act together and write a proper query (essentially, the article has to be written already).

  44. linda amick

    I think a greater number of women than men (I raised an adult son) are conditioned or are naturally more empathetic and intuitive.
    That being said, the egregious mass killing by the US of civilians in so many countries around the world via wars of aggression are killing the souls of many in this country.
    What have we come to? Barbarians?
    I know it breaks my heart daily.

  45. sd

    I didn’t see any mention of birth control pills which became so popular in the 1970’s. I know of three women with heart disease who have been told by their doctors that it was the result of taking birth control pillls for their entire adult life. I just found that very striking when I heard about it. It made me wonder what specifically is it about the pills.

    Medical research has also found there is a 50% increase in incident of heart disease among women who have had hysterectomies. In ways that are not understood, a woman’s reproductive organs plays an important function in her heart health.

    1. aletheia33

      when i was in high school in the late 1960s, my high school biology teacher advised us never to take birth control pills.

      as well as i can recall, she said, “you just don’t want to mess around with your hormones like that.”

      i never did take any.

  46. LD

    From the original report: “The report’s simulations are intended neither to replicate actual historical
    trajectories nor to project future ones. Instead, the goal was to construct hypothetical trajectories based on the assumption, contrary to fact, that the program and tax structures of 2010 persist for many decades into
    the future, subject to general increase in income and health costs.”

    The authors conclude that we need to raise the age eligibility for Social Security, and means test both Social Security and Medicare.

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