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Why Are Gen X Men Are Dying?

Gen X Men Are Dying | Purple Rain Purple Neon Lights

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

–Prince, 1984

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.

Click here to read the study now.

This study (here’s the PDF) is the worst thing I’ve ever read about Generation X men, although we’re not mentioned by name. The authors define those impacted as being exclusively from the baby boom generation, but in reality, 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.

How could Deaton and Case fail to properly identify both generations? Note the 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.

I more or less already knew this. I didn’t have stats to back it up, but I knew Generation X men without college degrees were dying. I saw it with my own eyes.

Let’s do the math on Generation X and this study. 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. As such you may identify less as a Baby Boomer more as a member of Generation Jones. If you were 45 in 2013 you were born in 1968. That’s approaching the mid-wave of Generation X. Thus, people born between 1961 and 1968 were in their data sets.

After reading the six-page paper I correlated Deaton and Case’s findings with all the other things that have devastated Gen-Xers — the 13th Generation of Americans.

The modest, though steady decline in church attendance, prayer, and belief in God as documented by Pew Research has also had a devastating impact on Gen-Xers.

Sadly, 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 aimlessly through an endless array of side gigs. They lived off women — their mothers and lovers and sisters and friends.

In many ways, they died because they did not have jobs. Mostly, they died because they had lost all hope.

Yea, the plane crashed. It was crashing back in 1977 when their parents divorced and they basically became fatherless. So many, struggling with joblessness and hopelessness, 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. There is so much fatherlessness in those numbers. So many broken mothers burying their broken sons.

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.

Why do you think Gen X men are dying?

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. Brett

    My Silent Generation dad always felt like a failure because he never felt like he could match the expectations of his mom, who was always comparing him to his siblings. He felt inadequate because he couldn’t keep up with his older brother and his big houses and his fancy cars.

    I learned at some point that that game is NOT a game that I want to play. Big houses and fancy cars–while cool–will stress you to no end in terms of cost, debt, upkeep, maintenance, and time. Focus on relationships. Focus on uplifting family. Focus on spending money intentionally and meaningfully, not with envious eyes on others. Focus on what you need, not what you want. Don’t go into debt any more than you have to. Have an abundance mindset. Play against par, not against others.

    The Lord has blessed me and my family immensely. I am very fortunate. There are plenty of folks less fortunate than me. Don’t make it any tougher on yourself.

    • Jennifer

      Is it too late for me to choose exceptional? That is a terrific article.

  2. Javier

    Patriarchy is the way in which society can establish a family, a solid structure that is opposed to many of the constructions of the current economy. Those economic institutions promote every possible way to undermine the prop of patriarchy: man. It is a war of corrupt and vicious elites, wicked to the core. The man and the family must return to be the center, but for this there is no easy or pleasant way; blood on blood.

    • Jennifer

      I agree that patriarchy has been undermined. It’s very sad what this has done to Generation X. As the reporter explained, “the plane has already crashed.” There’ve been a lot of casualties and victims.

  3. Shawn Martin

    Hi there. Your posts and characteristics are spot on. A lot of us Gen X felt very alone growing up. Our parents were obsessed with work and making it. I feel the current plight with our men is due to the changing cultural mores which no longer honors us as men. Historically men were valued as leaders. Men were breadwinners. Men desire a sweet if not somewhat submissive wife. Honor us, stay beautiful for us inside and out and most of us will lay down our lives for you and protect you. Men have been under almost constant attack for years. Our role as provider and father has been diminished. Women can now be exalted for almost anything (leader, feminine, worker, mother etc) but men are left confused as to whether we are wanted. I think this coupled with the decline of community in our country (Bowling Alone) and the terrible shift of corporations from bettering communities and giving economic security to just greedily focused on short run profits explains the turmoil many men feel.

    • Jennifer

      Oh my gosh, Shawn, thank you for being brave enough to say these things. They need to be said. Whether it’s popular or not, women are called to submit to their husbands and those husbands are called to lay down their lives for those women. What struck me most in your comment was women being exalted for almost anything while men are confused about whether or not they are even wanted. Very well stated! Men are in turmoil – more than ever before. This is satan’s attack on the family, and it is devastating to everyone – especially children. Thank you, again, for stopping by and leaving this thoughtful comment. May God richly bless you all the days of your life, jennifer

  4. Anonymous

    I love you my fellow Generation X’ers!!!!!

    • Jennifer

      God bless you, friend.

  5. Jasper

    I found this blog and this post (as a Gen X male, though one with multiple degrees, who is feeling very depressed and disillusioned). I was looking forward to a discussion of demographics and generational commonalities, but am a little dismayed at how often “God” and “church” are brought up. You don’t technically know what religion these people are you are mentioning that too, and they could be a different religion from the one you are.

    Is this a religious blog? Or can people who want to talk about Generation X free of specific religious doctrine post here, too?


    • Jennifer

      This is a personal blog about faith, family and generations. It includes my reflections on my generation, Generation X. Anyone is free to comment. Most of the discussions about demographics occur on this post:

  6. Aaron mena

    I am a generation x’er and if I had not read The Forth Turning I would still be completely lost on why I feel the way I do and why I see the world the way I do. It also has compelled me to seek out information about my generation. I have always had a feeling that something was amiss but articles like this make me feel not so alone. Then I get pissed. I do not know how I will come to terms with it and what you have written has me typing away like a maniac at midnight. All I can say, as I stare down at my minuscule retirement funds….God help us

    • Jennifer

      Aaron, I am so sorry. I know exactly how you feel. The future does seem so dark at times and my retirement funds are thin, too. And, the world grows crueler by the hour. God will help us. I KNOW He will help you, for you have called upon Him. All the money I receive from Amazon ads I use to buy books for people. Can I send you Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts? It has helped me so much. Let me know. =) God bless you. I’m praying for you. Also, The Fourth Turning helped me so much, too. All of Neil Howe’s book have helped me immensely.

  7. Heather

    Powerful writing. Society needs to put this problem a little higher on the priority list. I wonder if men from later generations will fare any better? Ours is the first to experience this painful adjustment to lower living standards.

    I love that quote from ‘Fight Club’ – one of my favorite movies. It’s so true.

    • Jennifer

      I love that quote, too. I also wonder how subsequent generations will fare.

  8. Chris

    White male, born in 1973 to a soldier and his wife. Parents stayed together. Graduated with a BS in CS in 1996–academic scholarship paid for it all. Graduated with a JD in 2001–paid for it all up front with money I had saved from working.

    I now work as a patent attorney for a global tech company. I own my home and I am completely debt-free. Life is beautiful.

    • Jennifer

      Thanks for bearing witness to the fact that sometimes in life, things do go right. Pretty exciting stuff, all things considered. I agree with you — life is beautiful. It’s all these crazy people running around the globe trying wreck it all that concerns me. Thank for your comment, as well as the one on programming at seven. I love that! Do you have pictures from those days you’d be willing to share? What a time capsule. Also, proof for the Xennials and Millennials. Ha!

  9. Rob

    I was born in 68. Parents divorced when i was 8. Mom worked. Dad took me friday nights and dumped me off early saturday. I remember trying to talk with my dad but he wouldnt talk to me just drink a glass of scotch smoke some marlboros and he would go to sleep id stay up and watch tv. Dropped out of school at 14. Got into alot of trouble with the law. I ran with a group of kids just like Me. Broken homes drug and booze use and abuse. I wound up in several detention centers and was also sent to a long term tough love program in virginia.a yeAr later i came home my friends had moved on i was 18 no real future. As an adult, i have gone to a few years of college and trade schools wound up driving a truck. Got married at 25 . 2 kids, bought house in the early 90s. Hurt my back at work. Got hooked on pAin killers then heroin. Lost job, lost house, almost lost my family. Got treatment stayed clean qualified for housing due to my disability. Battled cancer in remission. Still married 24 yrs. Through my turbulent life there has always been one constant and that is my faith inthe Lord. He has gotten me through and always will. Sorry about the life story but it seemed appropriate. God Bless fellow gen xers.

    • Jennifer

      Oh, my goodness, Rob. Praise the Lord that you are still alive and that your marriage has survived. That is a real blessing. Thank you for sharing your story. Yes, it is appropriate, and will resonate with all who read this post through the comments section. Your story is heart-breaking, but one I’ve heard and even seen play out before with many of my Gen-X guy friends. On a personal note, your story of God’s faithfulness was exactly what I needed to hear today. It is the one thing that is always gotten me through, too. Thank you, again, for taking the time to write a note.

  10. John Lord

    Men tend to be seen as disposable in most cultures. They’re not given to many options other than to succeed or fail. That’s probably why you dobtbreally heard much about it.Nothing saysn” privilege ” quite like being broke and jobless or getting financially raped in the divorce courts.

  11. John Lord

    They died for the terrible crime of being low status white males. I’m quite sure the last thoughts goingthrough my brothers head as he hung from his makeshift rope, was ” I’m really enjoying my privilege “.

    • Jennifer

      John! I’m so sorry you lost your brother, and in such a tragic way. I hope he found peace in the afterlife. I know the God I serve would have great mercy on anyone in that much pain.

  12. Darren

    Not one for making comments nor doing much with social media. Basically though, I just read my life. Struck a cord. Sort of puts things in perspective,
    Darren H.

    • Jennifer

      It makes me sad to hear that Darren, but I’m also glad you were able to connect with this post. It’s the saddest post I’ve ever written. I’ve lost a lot of friends…good ones.

  13. Erik M

    As a 50 y.o. guy who grew up in the Midwest, I’d only heard something of this once before. I didn’t realize it’s actually “a thing”.
    But yeah, I’m certainly a statistic. Incredible instability, I’ve moved at least 60 times in my adult life. I didn’t want to. Serious paranoia and distrust issues of people. I had a serious issue happen when I was 13 that was not dealt with correctly or at all. I like people, but I can’t be around any one for more than an hour a week. Highly volatile relationship that wasn’t diagnosed for decades. I’m smart, but have never been able to have a typical career or education. Only got half way through tenth grade, some college. I loved learning but the people thing, made it impossible. And again, when I was young, I didn’t know I had issues. I have been suicidal, and have planned it, but I don’t want to die. I know if I had had a gun, I wouldn’t be here. When it was really bad I was quick to get therapist help.

    I am grateful I never did drugs or alcohol as I’d be dead by now, I know that. I wonder, now, about people I went to school with decades ago. But, because I had no friends then and only got through 10th grade, there’s no one to ask.

    I never used to be concerned about being alone, but now I worry a bit.

    • Melissa

      I know it’s hard when you learned as a child to go it alone. Mom at work, dad working many jobs was tough. I made it through because I was brought up in Church and learned every day is a new day.
      I don’t agree with religion, as the article states, but I do know God is there for us if we reach out to Him.
      If I learned one thing, it’s that everyone somehow, someway will fail you but God can heal you from those people if you let Him. Forgiveness is hard but once you realize all Jesus did for us, it’s not as hard. I never trusted people, for good reason, but I learned to trust God to change me when those people failed me. Instead of anger, mercy. Instead of fear, hope.
      Isolation is the gateway to depression and thoughts of suicide so reach out to people – find what you love to do and get with a group that does it. Even church has groups of singles that go on cruises, have movie nights, etc. I know it’s easier said then done. Making the first step is the hardest but you can do it. I think once you start being part of a group of people you’ll find you like life more. I’ll be praying for you.
      Fellow Gen Xer

  14. Anon.

    Tears stream down the face , as I read gen x ,only to remind me of all that I’ve been through till now and there is no doubt that i am one of these men living on ,life support .

    • Jennifer

      Please don’t die before your time. Don’t give up as it is always darkest before dawn. One foot in front of the other every day as you have every day until now. I am sending up prayers for you.

      I think about this post ALL THE TIME. It is the only post I’ve written that I think about except for a few posts that feature other family’s old photos. I think about it because I am still stunned that my two dearest male friends in high school never made it to 50. One of them never made it to 30. God loves you, Anonymous. Believe it.

      Here is the 23rd Psalm by the Scottis Psalter.

      The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want.
      He makes me down to lie
      In pastures green: he leadeth me
      the quiet waters by.
      My soul he doth restore again;
      and me to walk doth make
      Within the paths of righteousness,
      ev’n for his own name’s sake.
      Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale,
      yet will I fear none ill:
      For thou art with me; and thy rod
      and staff me comfort still.
      My table thou hast furnished
      in presence of my foes;
      My head thou dost with oil anoint,
      and my cup overflows.
      Goodness and mercy all my life
      shall surely follow me:
      And in God’s house for evermore
      my dwelling-place shall be.

    • Melissa

      Anon. Me too. I grew up probably much like you. I went through things I wont discuss that should have destroyed me. If nothing more, I learned how weak I am and I couldn’t do life alone. Fortunately, I grew up in the church and had God to reach out to when I couldn’t bear it. He’s there for us, for you.
      I still struggle but I talk to God when I do. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, trusted the wrong people, and wondered why life is even worth it but it is. There are moments that reinforce that: like a child graduating from high school, a child getting married, accomplishing a Bachelor degree at 40.
      Every day is new. No matter how old we are there is something we can do to make our lives worth living. Volunteer at a VA, a homeless shelter, an animal shelter, there’s so much out there, so many people that need your help. And when you help them, you heal.
      Don’t give up! God is there for you, just reach out to him. I’m not talking about religion, I hate religion, but God has put people and beings in my life that has saved me through whatever hardship I’ve gone through. Every scar has a purpose even if to bring us to our knees to reach out to God. He’s promised to take the bad and make it good for us, to never leave us, and that He has a plan & a purpose for us. There is a peace & a love in Him that will satisfy you and give you hope. You just have to surrender it all to Him – people who failed you and your failures, your lost dreams and hope, all of you. It works.
      If we Xers learned one thing it’s NEVER QUIT. Don’t quit life, don’t live on life support – there’s too much joy you are missing.
      I prayed for you and will keep praying for you that you’ll find the Truth and the Way.
      Sincerely, fellow Generation X

  15. Sue

    Wow. Spot on. And under-exposed. I’ve seen all of this with the majority of men I’ve known in my life. Which is a shocking thing, considering I grew up in the “Silicon Valley”. Or is it? Growing up surrounded by orchards being taken over by technology – where was their place? Insightful post, thank you.

    • Jennifer

      My husband grew up there. He and his brother — The McCollum Family in Fremont. His dad worked for GM until the plant closed and he had to relocate to (of all places) Choctaw, Oklahoma. It nearly killed my husband. He went to Mission San Jose. He has never gotten over leaving California and still talks about going back. But, it’s changed a lot, I guess. His brother didn’t fare as well. We’ve had to help him a lot. We are lucky to still have him around. I can’t believe how many friends I’ve lost…So glad to make your acquaintance, Sue!!

      • Sue

        So glad to make your acquaintance too, Jen! Let your husband know that the Bay Area he once knew is long gone, unfortunately. I remember the GM plant closing, as well as the Ford plant (now Tesla). These types of closures were devastating financially for a lot of families.
        I was raised in Cupertino and watched the rise of Apple and other tech companies. interestingly enough, my brother (older) and his friends would end up working for these companies, but on the assembly line, not in the tech sense. Those assembly plants closed and these guys were left to scramble for some other career. Not yet tech savy, not with great skills, they were left behind. It was a strange vortex. My brother became a machinist – still is. But he’s lost a few friends over the years, drug & alcohol abuse, suicide. Your post has made me think about this again, thank you!


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