Millennials’ Health Deteriorating, Projected Mortality Rates Higher Than GenX; “Deaths of Despair” a Major Culprit

You thought deaths of despair were an affliction of deplorables. Silly you. In case you weren’t paying attention, young people are under a lot of stress too and many don’t have reason to think their state will get much better. Short job tenures and the rise of McJobs mean not just uncertain incomes, which are bad enough, but weak social attachments due to shallow relationships with co-workers and often too little discretionary income to mix regularly with contemporaries. Student debt is another major source of anxiety. We’ve also written, virtually from the inception of this site, that high levels of income inequality are bad for health, even for the wealthy.

And the reality of the accelerating effects of global warming weighs more on the young than the old, who can hope to die before serious dislocations kick in. The Jackpot is indeed coming.

Psychological, income, and time stress have knock-on health effects, including depression, poor coping mechanisms (alcohol and substance abuse; overeating), lack of time and/or money to take care of oneself well (good diet and exercise, as well as stress reducers like vacations and spending time with friends). And no or crappy health insurance means a lot of people who would benefit from health treatment or therapy won’t get it or won’t get enough. Look at the stories of deaths from inability to afford insulin.

So the results of a Blue Cross Blue Shield study which we have embedded at the end of this post, that Millennials are on track to have worse health outcomes than their GenX predecessors, should not come as any surprise, save perhaps for the degree of decay. However, the document perversely tries to make a case that the health of Millennials generally is deteriorating, when the data clearly shows that the rise in mortality is due to accidents, meaning significantly overdoses, and suicides. And the other information they muster on the health of Millennials generally does not provide much support for the notion of worsening physical health, but of worsening mental health.

My assumption is BCBS spent a lot of effort mining health data, and the authors were tasked to write about that because that’s where the work went, as opposed to where the findings were. In fairness, the study also estimated what higher health care costs would mean to Millennials’ budgets.

The overview:

1. Millennials are seeing their health decline faster than the previous generation as they age. This extends to both physical health conditions, such as hypertension and high cholesterol, and behavioral health conditions, such as major depression and hyperactivity. Without intervention, millennials could feasibly see mortality rates climb more than 40% compared to Gen-Xers at the same age.

2. These accelerated declines will result in greater demand for treatment and higher healthcare costs in the years ahead. Under the most adverse scenario, millennial treatment costs are projected to be as much as 33% higher than Gen-Xers experienced at a comparable age.

3. Poorer health among millennials will keep them from contributing as much to the economy as they otherwise would, manifesting itself through higher unemployment and slower income growth. Under the most adverse set of projections, lower levels of health alone could cost millennials more than $4,500 per year in real per- capita incomes compared to similarly aged Gen-Xers. Such impacts would be most likely concentrated in areas already struggling economically, potentially exacerbating instances of income inequality and contributing to a vicious cycle of even greater prevalence of behavioral health conditions.

First, the mortality stats. You can see the overall rise, as well as the shifts. Deaths from cancers and heart disease are down among Millennials (the latter is interesting in the face of rising obesity), but notice the big rises in accidents and suicides. “Accidents” presumably include drug overdoses.

The article claims that focusing on mortality distorts the overall health picture; I’m not sure I buy this view given that some of the proxies they use to assess health are questionable. Some of this is “drunk under the streetlight”: BCBS is relying on data they can analyze across large populations, when some measures they can’t capture or haven’t computed (like BMI) could be more revealing. Nevertheless, the study depicts the base case as Millennial mortality continuing to rise and then leveling off.

And another problem is that young people, particularly young men, tend not to go for annual checkups for cost reasons. That’s not even a bad thing; the annual checkup has been found to be of little value in improving health, so it isn’t at all clear how representative the sample for this analysis was. Healthy people are better off saving their money to see the doctor when they think something is amiss, and then tests would be directed at assessing the compliant, as opposed to an overall health review.

Consider this chart:

More and more studies have debunked the idea that high LDL cholesterol causes heart disease, so it’s troubling to see this report depict high cholesterol as a health risk (in fact, for women, the total cholesterol level correlated with the lowest level of all factor mortality is 270). I thus tend to discount the “health index” due to the inclusion and significance of high cholesterol, as well as potential sampling issues.

I also found this table a bit puzzling, since the base case for Millennials versus GenX is not that different (and indeed shows some improvements, such as for tobacco abuse) save for major depression. But the “adverse case” give cause for pause:

However, this chart is telling, since one would assume BCBS would have good data on behavioral/health conditions (its data would be based on patients getting treatments):1

Needless to say, this study raises important questions, particularly in flagging the big increase in deaths of despair among the young. I hope it will lead to more examination of the health as well as the social issues. At a minimum, it bolsters the case for single payer so that more can get treated for mental health issues.

1 Even being treated isn’t a fully accurate guide. It has become more and more common to use psychoactive drugs, particularly Adderall, to enhance test and workplace performance. And I have to tell you, in NYC and I assume other major cities, doctors are shockingly willing to offer stimulants and anti-depressants for omplaints like fatigue with no psychological or psychiatric evaluation. So one has to wonder whether at least some of “hyperactivity” incidents are to help with job demands. It’s still not good, but leads to a different line of thought as to the remedies are (public policy measures, like better worker protections, as opposed to strictly medical).

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  1. Joe Well

    For the table, “Prevelance of Behavioral Health Issues at Age 35” I was struck by the 15% jump from the 1978 to the 1979 cohort.

    1979 + 35 = 2014. Was this a banner year for the opioid crisis? I’m wondering how much the GFC played into this, except that was a pretty long while after the peak of the crisis.

    Also, the chart points up the limitations of a “generational” (really just arbitrary birth cohorts) framing. The biggest jump happened during the Gen X years, and the difference between the last year of Gen X and the first year of Millenials was only 5.7%. The data do not show sharp cutoffs corresponding to age cohorts (which would correspond to some shared experience, like a war), just trends across years.

    Also, the bulge in “Boomer” mortality from 1984 to 1994: at first I wondered if it was the war in Vietnam. But someone who was 35 in 1994 would have been to young to serve.

    1. jrs

      I think those born later of Gen X have more in common with millenials (worsening economy) and those born earlier more in common with Ok Boomers (better economic fortunes). Still I think even late Gen Xers, it they have EVER known better economic times (before 2008 pretty much, although the dot com crash was no fun either) had it somewhat better than millenials.

      1. Summer

        Earlier generations didn’t have the potential for any mistake to go “viral.” One of the main culprits.
        Alot to be said for being able to leave some things in the past…

      2. Big River Bandido

        I’ve never accepted the term “Gen X”, always having preferred “Baby Buster” as the more accurate and descriptive term. That tells you already my attitude on the question. I was born early in that cohort and certainly don’t feel that my economic trajectory has much in common with those born just a few years before — several aunts, uncles, and cousins who are just 5 years older had opportunities that seemed to vanish just before I was old enough to try for them myself. By the time I entered the workforce the nation was already in full-bore offshore-and-austerity mode.

        Quite frankly, I’ve not seen any good economic times since the early or mid-1970s — I consider the “Clinton boom” of the 1990s to have been a shallow, cruel fraud. My memories of the 70s may well be colored as much by childhood nostalgia as truth, but I do recall from that era that even working class people in my home town had money to spend — and the free time to take advantage of that.

        1. Seamus Padraig

          I consider the “Clinton boom” of the 1990s to have been a shallow, cruel fraud.

          I’m a late Gen-Xer/Buster (born 1971) and totally agree with that. The 90s were a lost decade: the time when off-shoring and open-borders really began to hit in force. Thus, I tend to identify more with the Millennials than with my own ‘cohort’. And the boomers are almost like a foreign people to me.

    2. Erin

      To answer your first question, 2014 could be considered a banner year for the opioid crisis. Opioid use disorder was starting to peak around that time. Though this wouldn’t be reflected in behavioral health issues (unless “issues” includes non-fatal ODs), 2014 is also when fentanyl entered the market.

  2. Amfortas the hippie

    still plowing through it.
    a quibble with the data sourcing, based on lived experience(anecdotal)…but unsure how to fill in the perceived gap in data:
    i ran into this when i was trying to get on disability. lack of medical data…because i’ve been poor…so i don’t go to the doctor for anything besides acute things like the flu.
    this results in a lack of data….i had no history of xrays and mri’s, and my medical history, based on my doctor’s notes, i presume, had only passing reference to my biggest health issue, widespread arthritis.
    if there’s nothing my doctor can do about a constant, why complain incessantly about it? there may be an artifact in the coding, here, too…how the system assigns a number to a given doctor’s visit.
    my doctor was certainly aware of the chronic pain problem, but it didn’t show up in the data when i got a copy of what was then 15 years of going to see him.

    so the disability gatekeepers assumed fraud, because in their world, i should have had a long line of imaging and visits to the doctor for the arthritis…since i didn’t, until the crisis(when i had to “retire”), the assumption was that the problem didn’t exist.
    this assumption totally ignores the lack of access to comprehensive healthcare that’s been a feature in my life.
    it appears that this study is largely based on doctor visits…which assumes access, and enough discretionary income(!) to actually go see one’s doctor for health and mental issues, rather than gritting one’s teeth and soldiering on.
    add in the stigma and cost of mental/behavioral healthcare, as well as lack of services in places like non-urban texas, and the study’s main surprise…that mental health is a larger issue for that cohort than heart disease, etc…is likely merely scratching the surface of a much larger problem.
    …and of course this is to say nothing of possible causation…like lack of hope in the future, beginning adulthood with giant debt, and the rest of the neoliberal order’s qualitative effects on a person’s life and wellbeing.

    1. inode_buddha

      Lucky you. I got zip despite a lifetime of records showing that I’m deaf. The judge basically said “Bootstraps” after the third appeal. Never mind that I had been working and paying into the system my whole life.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      This study and data analysis reminds me of all the study and data analysis done on mass transit in the 1970s. Before we could build anything we had to study and measure and analyze the problem. Very little mass transit was ever built and what was in place wasn’t well cared for. Any fool could try driving home during rush hour and collect all the data necessary with plenty of time to analyze while sitting in traffic. Similarly any fool could spend a little time talking with — especially LISTENING — to the young people they meet. Anecdotal data may yield no statistics but a few random samples should suffice to identify a problem. Besides a little empathy combined with an understanding of the circumstances others find themselves should suffice to identify a problem. Detailed statistics are only required it you intend to ‘manage’ — efficiently ‘manage’ with maximum ROI — a problem … or if you intend find profit in it.

      My children are Millennials. My son is now in one of my state’s remaining mental hospitals and I doubt he will be out soon. After a few years seeing the results of our the current treatments for mental health problems applied by our mental health system I am slowly reaching the conclusion either our society doesn’t know how to treat and deal with mental health problems or there is no will to provide for effective treatments in the budget. I view the root cause of what I consider a growing mental health crisis is our Neoliberal Society and economic system. Our Elite have shown no interest in finding any remedy to this root cause. Toss on a little concern about Climate Chaos, Peak Oil, and a quite a few interlinking subordinate problems — what’s not to despair.

  3. The Rev Kev

    It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was never supposed to be like this. For at least two centuries, each generation was supposed to be better off than the previous one. They were supposed to live longer, to no longer suffer from age old diseases like measles, not having to live from hand to mouth and the resultant stress, be more educated, have better diets, be taller, have more free time, have better medical care.
    And in only two generations neoliberalism has killed off that ideal and now we are going backwards.

    1. Bert Schlitz

      lol, I don’t agree. That was unstable and based on debt expansion, including the post-war boom. Nothing personally Kev, but when you over promise, that is symptom of the problem. Truth is, outside the post-war bubble, nobody has been getting “better off” in such a manner since………..or before.

      Millies didn’t get into the health kick of the Xers yet Xers had the same drugs. Drug use like single mother births exploded in the mid-70’s. This is nothing new. Depopulating and destroying selfishness is the only solution.

      1. flora

        au contraire,

        2 centuries ago, roughly, corresponds with the Chartists movement and the Anti-Corn Law League in the UK, groups opposed to agricultural monopolies keeping food prices high. The Chartists succeeded in passing agriculture anti-monopoly, aka anti-Corn Laws, to bring down the cost of food and other prices working people had to pay to live; they reduced the rents part of the cost by breaking up the monopolies.

        Great monopoly trusts in the US were fought by the prairie populists and the progressives, and by politicians Wm. J. Bryan and Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, among others. This broke up the financial stranglehold monopolists had on the country.

        Breaking up the monopolists’ financial stranglehold on the countries was far more important to the improving financial condition of each new generation than debt expansion. Breaking up the monopolies stopped the tiny few at the top from owning all facets of production and distribution and collecting rents at every step in the process, aka taking most of the wealth of the country for themselves leaving little for the rest. e.g. see drug price rises on old drugs.

        This held until the neoliberals reversed anti-monopoly and anti-trust laws by refusing to enforce them in the name of higher stock prices and “efficient” (aka monopoly) production.

        1. flora

          shorter: the rising standards of living did not just happen, they were fought for by organizations committed to breaking the grip of financial predators.

        2. inode_buddha

          “Breaking up the monopolies stopped the tiny few at the top from owning all facets of production and distribution and collecting rents at every step in the process, aka taking most of the wealth of the country for themselves leaving little for the rest…”

          J.P Morgan, the man, comes to mind, among others. We have similar types of people operating all over the land today.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      You allude to the myth of material progress. That myth may be slowly dying with our Society. Today we are told how much ‘progress’ equated with ‘growth’ there has been. The myths of expectations remain but now badly tuned to the realities of a growth that measures items like imputed rent, and financial services like fees and penalties. We are reaching a condition where our young can strive for but never reach that state of life our Society defines as fully adult — job, house, family. Too many must remain living in their parents home throughout their young adult life hoping to earn enough to afford an apartment — or more often now — to afford a room in an apartment with roommates.

      It was not supposed to be like this. I do not believe it had to be like this. The Neoliberal deconstruction of Society resulted from a long-term, deliberate, and well-funded effort by our ‘Elite’. Material progress is limited by our finite world, but I believe it is also a very limited view of what composes human progress. I remember this every time I eat a potato or a slice of wheat bread or use spice and herb combinations from dozens of other cultures, or read their literature and philosophy and that of their ancients and mine. I also remember when Humankind put footsteps on the moon. I also remember a small flag that undermined the sharing of that achievement with all of Humankind — as it should have been shared.

  4. Judith

    There is also a health impact on the parents of the Millenials, who are living with them and supporting them and struggling to help them.

    1. LaRuse

      Yes, and also a mental and physical impact on the parents who survive their children and live with a permanent sense of guilt – “What else could I have done to save him/her???”. I know because I am watching the toll as it is being taken on my own mother every day.

  5. LaRuse

    My brother was a millennial, born in 1984. Due to economic uncertainties of our upbringing, my brother became vulnerable to the economic ills that ultimately resulted in his “death from despair” at the age of 34 this February. He had behavioral issues from childhood that probably should have been addressed with counselling but we didn’t have insurance or money for that. By 14 he was a regular pot smoker. By 17, he was selling much harder drugs, had been mugged at gunpoint, and had a rap sheet for crimes such as writing bad checks from our deceased grandmother’s checkbook. He dropped out of high school, was kicked out of the house, and became a homeless couch surfer for several years. He cleaned up a little bit after going to jail for about 6 months around 2004 in the Outer Banks for trying to cash 13 Percocet prescriptions in a single day. Eventually he became an excellent line cook and kitchen manager in restaurants as low end as Olive Garden to as high end as a tap house in Virginia Beach where entrees started around $24 at dinner service. But the jobs were usually short term because he would pop on a drug screen from time to time. And he never had any benefits until after ObamaCare went into effect. By then, the toll on his mind and body was already irreversible.
    When Colorado legalized pot in 2012, my mother and I helped him move out there from VA. It was the best thing for him at the time. He got MUCH better and did very well there for years, smoking all the pot he wanted but keeping a clean record, earning good money and a tiny little retirement account, paying debts that allowed him to get his driver’s license for the first time at age 32. But like most addicts, after a few years, he burned all of his bridges, got back into harder drugs, and eventually came back to the East Coast in 2018. On President’s Day this year, my Mom got a pre-dawn call from a Norfolk VA detective with the news that she needed to find a funeral home to come collect my brother’s body, which was lying in an “uninhabitable” drug-refuge of an apartment.
    It was a couple of days before Mother’s Day when we got the confirmation of what we already knew (or I knew, my mom was holding out so much hope for an aneurism or heart attack). My little brother died of a heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl overdose.
    No one looking at my brother would think he was in “despair” but he expressed an incredibly nihilistic viewpoint of the world to me, and on Christmas Day last year, he told me he would not live to be an old man. He knew. I don’t think he knew death was less than 2 months away, but he knew it was coming.
    At the wake his friends held at a bar in Norfolk, I saw a terrifying number of hollowed out vacant eyes, skeletal frames, and young people in their mid-30s who walked around as though they were in their 70s. Yes, my brother hung around a particular crowd, but I was taken aback to realize how large that crowd is. I feel safe to say that there will be a LOT more funerals for that crowd to gather at in the next 5-10 years.
    We are working on losing an large percentage of an entire generation right now so, I guess….everything is going according to plan, as Lambert would say.

    1. CoryP

      That’s heartbreaking. I’m sorry for your family’s loss. I’m just a couple years younger than your brother and worry all the time that I’m going to get a phone call about someone I know. Plus working in healthcare and seeing the sheer volume of opioid addiction… it’s stunning how bad this is. Even before fentanyl became so prevalent the number of young suicides Ive known is incredible. Canada may have “free healthcare” but it’s severely underfunded and mental health care has been shit as long as I’ve been around.

      1. Trent


        I’m sorry for you loss. I just turned 36 and understand what you are saying. In this society if money doesn’t motivate you, you’ll always be on the outside looking in. And everyone judges you based on how much money motivates you. It can be tough.

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      my heartfelt condolences.
      I’m genx, but have seen the same among folks i went to school with…an unlooked for largeish percentage fallen to drink, drugs and the gun…or the more hidden ravages of desapir, labeled something more anodyne, but attributable to lack of hope/light at end of tunnel.
      and this:”…No one looking at my brother would think he was in “despair”…”
      the invisiblity of many of these ailments…especially the mental kind…coupled with the prevailing practice of denial that everythings frelled.
      my debilitating arthitis/fibro is invisible…unless you physically come to my house on a pain-day.
      in my case, hydrocodone was a life/liver/sanity-saver…prior to finally obtaining that(with which i am rigorously careful), i was well on my way to drinking myself to death…and, indeed, found myself sneaking beer to get through a shift, due to the pain.
      another thing left out of the study is the pain….so many of the lower end jobs are physically draining/damaging. i was amazed to learn that many of my customers, especially “real men” in the construction trades, looked on kitchen work as easy.
      but it took my underlying injuries, and made them all that worse.
      and with mental health…in texas, at least…the general feeling, both societally and from folks in the government, is that “that’s what church is for”…and that mental health issues is a sign of weakness and moral decrepritude(thanks, reagan)
      so there’s a big stigma attached to it, larded on to the already impossible situation of scarcity and lack of affordability…especially outside of the urban core.
      in the early days of my “retirement”, i knew i was deeply depressed…working is a big part of one’s persona, and all.
      but all that was available for poor people was state funded religious group therapy….and even that was hard to access. so taxpayer $$ paying for (often court ordered) group sessions, where the cure for depression(nee substance abuse) was “letting jesus into your heart”.

      again, my condolences for your loss.
      we can do better.

    3. Summer

      I can relate. My younger brother born in ’83 attempted suicide when he was in his twenties. He was bullied alot about his weight. He’s better now, but still a loner. He never was into drugs, but I still worry about him.

    4. Jeremy Grimm

      Responding to you and your mother — I believe you both did everything you could for your brother, her son. You got him off the streets and helped him to some measure of life. Beyond that I do not believe there was anything in your power to do more and if there were some small or large thing — I do not believe it would have been of any consequence. I am sorry to hear about your brother. He is gone. Now is time to make life and the living your worry and concern.

      I am troubled by your statement: “But like most addicts, after a few years, he burned all of his bridges, got back into harder drugs, and eventually came back to the East Coast in 2018.” It creates the category “most addicts”. It buys into the current thinking of addiction as a ‘disease’ — possibly a permanent condition like diabetes. It also leans on the common perception that “mental health issues is a sign of weakness and moral decrepritude(thanks, reagan)” — Amfortas the hippie. This couples with the stigmas tied to drug addition similarly to the stigma attached to mental health issues.

      I view the use of drugs as a conscious choice — at least up until the point of physical addition. Something in life, in our Society, leads to that conscious choice. If the underlying problem remains or a comparable new problem arises, the willingness to make that choice will remain. Though sharing the same injury as another, I can no more feel the same pain as that other person feels than I could see the same red or smell a rose with the same intensity and emotion as that other person. I cannot judge their actions and motives beyond knowing what pain is. I can perceive a growing sickness in our culture and in our Society. I can perceive its deadly impacts on children.

    5. sj

      I’m so very, very sorry for your pain and loss. It’s hard to lose a brother, no matter the reason. But, perhaps, so much more so if it never had to be that way in the first place.

  6. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    It’s little better in Blighty and not limited to millenials, according to my government official mum who saw some statistics and spoke to some social workers covering the Thames valley recently. When mum told me, we wondered whether in the grand scheme of things this was not a bigger issue than Brexit. The Labour proposal to have counsellors in schools is most welcome, if not long overdue as the issue the proposal tries to address goes back to the Thatcherite wrecking ball of the 1980s and beyond.

    Mum and the social workers are all of Catholic and immigrant background, so the lack of solidarity / weakening of social bonds is particularly noticeable.

    When I heard some of the anecdotes relayed by mum, I wondered if neoliberalism should be classed as a crime against humanity. It also puts into perspective some of the nonsense spouted by (often well off) remainers.

  7. Ed

    The thing to do with these generational things is to add 22 from whatever the key birth year is and then see what was happening with the job market for college graduates that year.

    Well an earlier commentator says the jump occurs for people born in 1978, add 22 and you get 2010. And the economy crashed in 2008. So I think we have our connection.

    By the way, the usual way of defining these generations is 1946-64, 1965-83, 1985-2002 and so on and 1978 is a bit too early, its more like late Gen X. But I’ve noticed a tendency in commentators to collapse the years for Gen X or even to skip the generation altogether.

    1. Ed

      Sorry about the earlier comment. I just realized I made an mental math error and 22 years after 1978 is 2000. That is near 9-11 but not close to any particular significant date in terms of the job market. So forget the entire comment.

      1. Joe Well

        Actually, it was a phenomonally bad job market in 2000-2002, probably the worst til then since the Depression, not just 9/11 but the end of the 90s boom and the dot com bust.

        I think you might have solved it!

  8. a different chris

    As an late middle-class Boomer I know of *no-one* that committed suicide among the people I grew up with. Doesn’t mean it’s zero, but pretty sure nobody by the time I was 30.

    My son, half my age, has gone to 3 funerals of friends. All of them, like him had college degrees. Now they were all OD’s, but the nilhilism that led to those OD’s was pretty apparent.

    Incomprehensible what those parents are going thru. Incomprehensible that so many expect us to walk around with flag pins on our lapels… when we should be so ashamed of this place.

    1. Eclair

      Same here, ad chris. I am one of the ‘silent generation’ and am pretty sure no one I grew up with either od’ed or committed outright suicide. Of course, my cohort was mainly Catholic, working class Irish, Italians, Poles, Syrians, French Canadians. We knew we would burn in Hell for eternity if we off’ed ourselves. But, we were a hopeful bunch, all doing better than our parents and, most certainly, than our grandparents, who had slaved and died young in the local textile mills.

      In the last few years, I have begun a litany of relatives and acquaintances who have died ‘deaths of despair.’

      Two of my husband’s distant cousins, both men in their 50’s, one an outright suicide, his brother just didn’t take his insulin. (Their mom, a nurse in her 90’s, and dad, a milk delivery man, had been able to build a modest house on a bluff over-looking the Columbia River.)
      My ex-sister-in-law, hooked on prescription opioids after a series of failed back operations; she went quietly, od’ing on her meds one afternoon.
      The young grandson of a couple in our dance group. Found dead with the needle in his arm. They said, “Our daughter will never be the same.”
      Two of our 21 year old grandson’s friends: one young man od’ed; the young woman killed herself.
      And, on Monday, an 18 year old young man, a relative-by-marriage to my children’s half-brother, died from a ruptured spleen. One that had swollen to 6 times its normal size. He was taking a year off school to play in a hockey league; played in games even though he was feeling sick and was in pain. A kind of ‘toxic masculinity’ (or, maybe, a ‘you will be fired if you don’t come to work, because there are 20 people that want your job’ ) that forces men (and women, too) to grit their teeth and go to work.

  9. Romancing The Loan

    Here in Massachusetts I hear whispered rumors that in places such as Fall River and Lowell, hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, half of the high school classes who graduated around the turn of the millennium are dead.

    1. Joe Well

      Class and racially-tinged urban myths about working class communities don’t help. Even if most of the victims were originally from Lowell (and they aren’t), the outrageous height of 56 opioid deaths a year in the city proper would not represent half a high school class in a city where the main public high school has over 3000 students.

      Most of the people suffering from opioid addiction in these communities were from somewhere else that got gentrified or was just always expensive and just kept getting pushed further out from the nucleus of Boston. How much of the Class of 2000 Cambridge or Somerville high schools could possibly still live there? There was a famous sociological study, Ain’t No Makin It, that looked at a group of about 20 high school students in Cambridge in the early 1980s, and when the author followed up in the 2000s, almost all had been pushed out.

      But also it is criminal that the local politicians in Lowell have done so little for the opioid crisis, as bad as or even worse than the state legislature. Fall River meanwhile is seeing their mayor criminally prosecuted.

      1. Tim

        50 deaths per year * 19 years is 950 deaths. Each class of the school of 3000 would have 750 students.

        Everything gets exaggerated, especially when everybody knows everybody, but to call it a myth is over the top.

        Per the statistics I wouldn’t be surprised if it was as high as 25% are now deceased, which is still shocking.

        Who’s to say most of those people didn’t leave Laurel for some other working class community to end up with the same fate?

        1. Joe Well

          25% of the graduating high classes of 15 years ago are dead? You really believe that? And where would someone from a working class municipality in an unequal blue metro go if they fell out of affording even that, Detroit? Either put up the sources of your statistics or stop spreading lies.

          This is poverty porn from a disgustingly unequal metro area that relegates its working and disabled people to a few remaining islands of semi-affordability, which are also the few places of actual authentic community life in this insufferable corner of the world, and then spits on the communities that exist there.

  10. Expat2uruguay

    I suggest that the author of this article clarify that what’s being written about is the u.s. I wasn’t sure when I was reading it, but the underlying report clearly states “America” in the title.

  11. Summer

    “weak social attachments due to shallow relationships with co-workers and often too little discretionary income to mix regularly with contemporaries…”

    Used to be no shame in everyone pitching in for a get together at someone’s place and more understanding if someone was a little light at the time.

    1. Joe Well

      This is like the “OK Boomer” joke comments. If we have a collection of irregular shifts at weird hours and are all living 3 people to an apartment, when and where and how often is this shindig going to happen?

  12. Summer

    And on the flipside, there are more things described as disorders than ever before, although that doesn’t account for the physical health matters.

    How much of the “hyperactivity” is the tyranny of “the hustle”?

  13. David

    I think we may be entering an entirely novel social and economic situation. In the 80s, people started to worry that western economies might be going “back to the thirties” but actually that seems a rather complacent underestimate now of the likely problems. Essentially, it’s a combination of two things. One, anyone born in roughly the last 40 years must expect to have a worse life than their parents did: lower lifetime earnings, uncertainty about employment and pensions, lower chance of owning a house etc. But it’s not just the practicalities: the ideology is perhaps worse. Younger people have been told for a generation that they can’t expect anything, that government and society can’t offer them anything, and that in the last analysis if things go wrong it’s their fault. Complaining about it means you’re some kind of right-wing extremist. I don’t think such a set of circumstances has ever really existed. At least in the past there was a mendacious promise that if you did well you would get ahead. In addition, the family, social and religious structures that used to make life bearable in the face of precariousness and poverty no longer exist: people are left to their own devices, except that they are also encouraged to view others as competitors and potential enemies.
    If you actually wanted to bring about societal breakdown and mass mental illness you couldn’t really do any better. The stories I hear from the ground in the UK are terrifying (I agree with CS) and I agree that it’s probably a bigger issue than Brexit – or maybe “Brexit” is just part of it.
    In France, family and social structures are visibly disintegrating. One in four French children now lives in a single-parent family (a much higher proportion among the working class) and heaven knows what the next generation is going to be like. As it happens, I was in the local Police Commissariat recently, (for very banal reasons) and one of the women officers had just taken a statement from a teacher who had been forced to give up work with nervous illness after being repeatedly bullied and threatened with violence. By an eleven year-old.

    1. Big River Bandido

      The neoliberal parasite was bound to eventually start eating away at the nations with the best safety nets. “Everything’s going according to plan.”

      I wonder how soon it will be before Germany, too, starts to creak.

    2. Joe Well

      Not just the last 40 years, the trend line has been going down since at least the earliest Baby Boomers hit their occupational strides in the mid-1970s. Everyone has seen disappointment, only that the people born more recently were told to expect disappointment and got even worse than they had expected.

    3. flora

      Thanks. imo, the 99% are the economic opponents of the 1%. The 1% knows it and goes to lengths to demoralize the 99%’s energy to prevent them from asking pointed questions and demand representation from their electeds.

      I think that’s why Sanders’ campaign is virtually ignored by the US msm. They pretend he doesn’t exist. His campaign events are energetic, talking about Main Street issues and the 99%’s real difficulties, which our elected could address but don’t. The monopolists who own the msm don’t want that broadcast. Sanders is almost as invisible as Occupy was in the msm.

      We all want prosperity, but not at the expense of liberty. Poverty is not as great a danger to liberty as is wealth, with its corrupting, demoralizing influences. Let us never have a Government at Washington owing its retention to the power of the millionaires rather than to the will of millions. – Joseph Pulitzer

  14. anon y'mouse

    you can’t get together with coworkers OR friends, because you are nearly all on some kind of irregular schedule and no one has off-time that overlaps properly. or if they are off, they are exhausted because of the on-call nature of the hours everyone is forced to work. whether you are working full-time hours or not, or have enough “sleep hours” or not, this kind of totally irregular schedule quickly leads to sleep loss and permanent low grade burnout of a physical and mental kind.

    one can only imagine how one eats on a schedule like this. there is no family meal time anymore, but popping something into a microwave or picking up a fast food meal is all that anyone has time for. and we all know how that is going to affect one’s health in the longer term.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Adding to what you said — many people have very long commutes to work. Most of my friend from work lived 45 minutes to an hour’s drive away from where I lived.

    2. wilroncanada

      anon y’mouse
      Thanks for the contribution about job precarity leading to stress AND social community destruction.
      My daugher has a full-time journalism job. Her job has a title: editor. Two newspapers plus social media. She MUST, as part of her titled job, post at least one post per hour to the papers’ facebook page, 18 hours each day, 7 days a week.. That is what you are talking about when you refer to the on-call nature of the work everyone is forced to work.

  15. Medbh

    I wonder how much of this is also related to changing family structures, including single moms, divorce and women moving into the workforce. Millennials are birth year 1981-1996. Take a look at how that time period meshes with those changes.

    My parents divorced when I was six, and it was years of ugliness and stress that significantly impacted me and my sisters. Saw it with a lot of my friends too. Sometimes divorce is necessary, but it’s going to have an impact.

    Another thing that changed over that time is working moms and center-based childcare. I’ve been a full-time, part-time, and stay at home mom, and am familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of those lifestyles (and realize not everyone has a choice either way). I went through the process to become a certified child care provider, and it was pretty scary to see who else was in the classroom. There were only two other students (out of about 25) that I would even consider watching my kids, and this is the “top tier” childcare (people who went beyond the state requirements to get the higher city-based ones). There is a lot of really bad childcare out there.

    Economics, job conditions, recessions, etc. matter, and they all influence family stress and decisions. But there have also been some big social changes that occurred during that time period (which are also driven by economics), and I think we’re seeing some of the unfortunate results. Young adults are depressed, anxious, and isolated not only because of the economic environment, but also due to the social environments they encountered growing up.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Hear, hear.

      I was fortunate in that I had a father who made enough money to support Mom and me until Mom started working as a school teacher.

      Even then, the emotional transition was rough on me. I went from having a devoted mother to a careerist woman who was very immersed in her job. I acted out in various ways, until I realized that it would get me nowhere.

      After that point, I became a very serious student because I knew that it would be the only way out of the place we were living in. My grades were good enough to get me into a university in another state, and so I left. For good.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      My divorce had a significant impact on both my children especially my son — who was the youngest. Unfortunately I doubt remaining in my marriage would have been any less stressful for my children — I made a bad marriage. My ex-wife expected things from me I could not provide and often could not and still do not understand.

      From my perspective, one problem that troubled me and I believe troubled my children was how little status I had at law as a father. I had the right to pay child support — or go to jail — in return for an obligation that my ex-wife might let the children visit me bi-weekly, at her whim with little legal compulsion to comply. My children still do not understand why I so often complied with my ex-wife’s demands in order to gain de facto custody of them finally when they were in their teens.

  16. kareninca

    A wealthy woman in her 80s was bragging to me yesterday about her and her husband’s good health and good weight. She didn’t mean ill and she isn’t stupid. So when I told her that I thought that part of the problem was environmental toxins, and exposure at a sensitive age, she did listen. She had mentioned how huge some young people are whom she sees. I said to her – “if you saw a squirrel run by who was the same weight proportionately as those young people, what would you think?” She said – “that they were poisoning it.”

    I know that there are a lot of factors, but truly something that young people are being fed is toxic; that is part of it. Maybe it is just the ultra processing of food.

    It is especially dreary to read about Millennials, since most of the Gen Xers I know are in horrible shape. I am, despite doing all the “right things” and not being overweight and being comfortably off. That young people are even worse off is pretty terrible.

    1. jrs

      Vast quantities of toxins found in the water recently, and no I don’t just mean lead, though those issues exist too. Even chlorine deliberately added to the water, can’t even be removed from the water by letting water sit or by a basic water filer anymore (it used to be able to be) as they increasingly use chloramine instead of chlorine now, which can’t be filtered except by reverse osmosis which wastes more water than it filters (ie it’s socially irresponsible to use frankly). Pesticide use also keeps increasing.

      I have to laugh at “go to the doctor only when you have symptoms”. As sure, I’ve done that, and never once have I found a doctor able to diagnose my symptoms. At least having some record of going to the doctor regularly can relieve some mental panic when the next symptom that noone will ever be able to diagnose arises, and one is scare-diagnosing oneself via Web MD (as in: “well at least I know it’s not diabetes, as I’ve been tested for that …”).

  17. fdr-fan

    … too little discretionary income to mix regularly with contemporaries….

    That’s an important point that doesn’t get mentioned often! Eating out, traveling, even going to church, require money.

  18. Tomonthebeach

    So, we boomers mollycoddled our offspring, undermined their authority figures by arguing with teachers that junior was perfect and therefore could not have stollen that/graffitied that/pranked that/cheated in the test. Spanking was taboo. We demanded teacher raise junior’s grades – a well-deserved D or F would ruin his shot at Princeton. We regimented their daily lives to ensure a well-padded resume’. What do you do in adulthood when you discover that the world is not fair, and nobody will resucue you when you screw up in life, lose your job, make a bad investment, are burried in credicard debt, etc.? There’s a pill for that.

    1. jrs

      Of course noone will rescue you if you also don’t screw up or it’s debatable if you actually screwed up and you lose your job etc. (most people’s lives are not that clearly categorized as screw up or not, they have done things right, made mistakes, aka they have *lived*. And even a wrong move that is ONLY clearly a wrong move in 20-20 hindsight and could not have been foreseen, can in retrospect be considered a “screw-up”). And if there is no rescue and it seems there is no way out that’s when self-destruction starts to look tempting. Not recommending it fwiw.

      I do think they had less free time than Xers, less counterculture etc. (counter*culture*, Xers did pretty much nothing politically and little political change is gonna be credited to them). If they are harder working and more responsible than we were, well there is a psychic toll to be paid for that. And maybe it doesn’t help.

  19. JBird4049

    Nothing left to lose is just another way of saying freedom. People might think that the deaths of despair, the spreading and strengthening of nihilism of the bottom 80% will mean a whimpering collapse of society. One can see a lot of people living in cars, vans, and RVs. And living in the dark for most of a week was interesting.

    I wonder if people they realize that despair is often rage facing inwards and one’s rage can turn others’ despair outward. Like a match. So with no resources, no hope, and a growing awareness of the responsibility of others for society’s slow collapse is it a race between a cold dark nihilistic collapse inward or a fiery raging explosion?

    If we do get that explosion, will it be Lexington and Concord with the Continental Congress, or the Union Movement of the 1930s along with the New Deal, or will it be the Tennis Court and Madam Guillotine? Or what else?

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      bellum omnium contra omnes.
      the hyperindividualism feature of the neoliberal project has been a raging success.
      who’s on my team?
      do we have t-shirts?
      that’s why folks latch on to things like maga hats.

      given that the Machine has so adeptly sewn up the media, and the now virtual corner cafe and bowling alley(facebook, fortnite)…what’s left is one on one, at every opportunity.
      I look at how bernie is being blackballed and memoryholed…and like someone said, the way occupy was erased…and how even sort of recent history is totally forgotten, by relatively intelligent, informed people…and one on one talking to each other is all we’ve got.
      how do you build solidarity…or maintain a civilisation…when it’s all against all, the social contract(such as it was) has been torn up and burnt, and no one trusts anyone else as far as they can throw them?
      add fear, uncertainty and doubt…about just about everything…and the eventual boiling over can’t be anything but ugly, can it?

      However, in all my “field work”…eavesdropping and shooting the sh*t with random people…once you get past the various styles of performative posturing, it’s relatively easy to identify a great hunger for belonging.
      in just about everyone…and a ready acknowledgement of the most basic commonalities. especially in and around the hospital, I’ve been amazed at the common decency i’ve encountered….and the contrast between that and what i’d seen online was striking.
      the problem is that patient, compassionate one on one can hardly be expected to compete with wall to wall psywar waged on scared and far too busy people, overwhelmed by just getting by.
      wanna mitigate the collapse? start right outside your front door.

  20. DHG

    All foretold to accelerate rapidly in the time of the end. This system is nearly finished forever and the Kingdom of God will take back rulership putting an end to all nation/states and adherents to said.

  21. Maurice

    This unique blog merges scientists’ work with ordinary people’s opinions, feelings and sufferings. And personal testimonies can be very moving, as they are indeed concerning the younger generation’s plight.

    We live in a difficult transition between a five-century domination of Western bourgeoisies over the world and some new domination, possibly the Chinese domination. The Chinese bourgeoisie stands on 300 million migrant peasants. It gives them absolutely nothing, not even respect. In the future, the Chinese bourgeoisie will have to pay for that, and much more than it pays now in Hong Kong.

    At the peak of their power, Western bourgeoisies at least left something to subordinate classes. Obviously, it is no longer the case, as we see for instance in France, in Britain, and in the U.S.

    Giant U.S. corporations did not fall from the sky. They emerged progressively from ordinary people’s habit of getting problems solved efficiently. And if a new industrialization ever takes place in the Western world, chances are that il will develop first from U.S. ordinary people, who will, by the way, create a public healthcare system much better than some older systems.

    So, as a friendly neighbor, I look forward to see a revival of the industry, and superior physical and mental public services south of the border. The younger generation should benefit from both.

  22. margo3554

    Having to grow up with “multicultualism/inclusion/equality” and all the other virtue signalling social engineering has completely f-cked young people’s development- their minds, and thus their emotions and sanity. People in prior times also obviously had their own difficult situations to deal with, but they were tougher and had better coping mechanisms and a better support system (family, country, culture, race, etc). Millennials just cannot cope because they live in a new digital world of constantly being connected and constantly being told to accept completely foreign cultural and economic concepts, which ironically prevent them from organising and feeling connected to anything… But hey, carry on, im most likely a racist white supremacist for suggesting this,

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