I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
…in the purple rain
Why Are Gen X men dying at such an alarming rate?
A new study reveals that white, middle aged men who were between 45 and 54 years during the span of 1999 to 2013, died at an alarming rate. In fact, it’s so alarming, one economist likened the epidemic to a plane that has already crashed. The authors of the study, Angus Deaton and Anne Case compared the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic. They cited suicide, drug overdose, obesity and psychological distress — all underscored by economic despair — as the main causes.
This study (here’s the PDF) is probably the worst thing I’ve ever read about Generation X men, and yet we’re not even mentioned by name. The authors define those impacted as being exclusively from the baby boom generation, but in reality (unless my questionable ability at statistics has completely failed me), the entire first-wave of Generation X has been affected. That includes those white, middle-aged men born between 1961 and 1968 who did not go to college and/or earn a college degree.
Gen X men are dying and they can’t even get credit for it. Geez.
Gen X men are dying and they can’t even get credit for it. Geez.
How could Deaton and Case miss this? In failing to properly identify both generations, they have failed Generation X in such a terrible way. But, before I say anymore about the lack of mention of Gen X, please note language from the abstract:
This paper documents a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013. This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround. The midlife mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics; black non-Hispanics and Hispanics at midlife, and those aged 65 and above in every racial and ethnic group, continued to see mortality rates fall. This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. Although all education groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, those with less education saw the most marked increases. Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity. Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population. We comment on potential economic causes and consequences of this deterioration.
Oh, where to begin? The thing is, I already knew this. I didn’t have the stats to back it up, but I knew Generation X men without college degrees were dying, because too many of my friends who fit the study subjects have died. Where I made my own miscalculation was in correlating the high death rate to people who grew up in Rural America vs cities. (I’d like to see how this study breaks down against those identifiers, but I digress.)
Back to Deaton and Case. And, let me just go ahead and admit how outrageous it is that I’m criticizing someone who just won a Nobel prize for economics. I bet I’m the only person in America criticizing his study because he didn’t mention Generation X.
The math is simple. If you were middle-aged in 2013 (the last year of the study) you’re Generation X. If you were 54 in 2013 you were born in 1959. You aren’t a Baby Boomer, really. You’re Generation Jones. (Believe in Generation Jones.) If you were 45 in 2013 you were born in 1968. That’s approaching the mid-wave of Generation X. Thus, I conclude that people born between 1961 and 1968 were in his data sets.
Back to the boys, those failure-to-launch men, who died. I read the entire six-page paper and correlated Deaton and Case’s findings with all the other things that have put a crack in the plaster of Generation X:
- FDA approval of birth control
- The bite abortion took out of Gen X
- High divorce rates of our parents
- Latchkey childhoods
- Ongoing, never-ending Economic Recession
- Decline in Manufacturing Jobs
- Overseas outsourcing
- Death of the Middle Class (also known as CRAP WAGES)
- Loss of the American Dream
- Epidemic of Addiction, Especially Heroin
And, then, there’s been the modest, though steady decline in church attendance, prayer and belief in God as documented by Pew Research.
I can’t begin to tell you how much the Church, the Communion of Saints, failed these men — our brothers and buddies and best friends. Those boys we went to high school with who didn’t go to college and couldn’t find jobs and joined the Army to have something to do. Paroled from broken homes, lackluster high schools and a shrinking military (after all, there were NO manufacturing jobs), they roamed aimless through an endless array of side gigs. They lived off women — their mothers and lovers and sisters and friends.
They died, America, because THEY DID NOT HAVE JOBS. They died because they’d lost all hope.
Yes, the plane has crashed. It was crashing back in 1977 when their parents divorced and they basically became FATHERLESS. It’s tragic and they never got over it. Jobless and hopeless, they turned to drugs and alcohol to anesthetize the pain. One epidemic wrought another and so it goes on down the line.
If the rate of death for these men had kept pace with 1979-1998 numbers, 500,000 deaths would have been avoided between 1999-2013. More fatherlessness. More broken mothers burying their broken sons. God help us.
From 1981 to mid-2015, AIDS claimed the lives of 650,000 Americans. However, Deaton and Case note, “…Public awareness of the enormity of the AIDS crisis was far greater than for the epidemic described here.”
The Spiritual War of Generation X
There’s a famous quote in Fight Club about Generation X having “no great war.” It goes like this:
“Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
White, middle-aged men — Generation X men — with no college education have been fighting a war all their lives. In fact, the war has been their lives.