Baby Boomers: Why are they so depressed?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Baby Boomers
Baby Boom expressed as a graph

WHAT IS THE BABY BOOM? This chart, based on national data from CDC.GOV shows the Baby Boomers in red. The vertical axis shows the number of births per thousand in the American population. The horizontal axis shows years from 1909 through the turn of the millennium. (NOTE: CLICK on the chart to examine it in a larger size.)

Baby Boomers—Americans born from 1946 to 1964—took the nation by storm. Confident and optimistic (some would say entitled), they saw the world as their oyster.

So why are Boomers so bummed out now? Boomers are more likely than members of any generation to say they are depressed, reports Gallup. Fourteen percent of boomers say they currently have or are being treated for depression. This is double the percentage of Millennials who report depression (7%).

Aging per se isn’t the explanation. Only 9% of members of the oldest generation (born 1900-1945) report depression. Generation X (born 1965 to 1979) comes in second place to Baby Boomers. About 11% of Gen Xers say they currently have depression or are being treated for it.

Gallup notes that depression rates are low for young Americans, rising slowly to peak in late middle age (ages 57-64), then slowly declining thereafter.

Have you—or someone close to you—suffered depression?
If so, is it related to our age in life?
Why are Boomers bummed out?

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Get Out the Vote: Good news about old age? You’re more likely to vote.

This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series Get Out the Vote
Voter Turnout by Sex and Age 2008 US Presidential Election

SOURCE: US Census Bureau.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: Contributing columnist Terry Gallagher is exploring the values Americans place on voting. This is his third column …

If you’re looking for a bright spot in the declining voter participation rate, look up.

The numbers are clear: The older you get, the more likely you are to vote.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that more than three-quarters of Americans older than 65 are registered to vote, compared with fewer than half of those aged 18 to 24.

In the 2008 presidential election, more than 70 percent of Americans between 65 and 74 years old voted, compared with just over 40 percent of those aged 18 to 24.

Political scientists differ about why one group votes more than another but social pressure to conform with the expectations of your neighbors and friends definitely plays a role.

“Even when you’re old enough to live in a retirement community, it turns out, there’s peer pressure,” according to a recent column by Detroit News columnist Neal Rubin. Rubin was writing about a suburban Detroit retirement community where 919 residents out of 1039 are registered to vote.

And vote they do: 87 percent in November 2012, compared with an overall national rate of around 57 percent. In that year’s primary election, more than 64 percent of the residents voted, compared with around 25 percent elsewhere.

“We were almost worried we were going to run out of ballots,” the city clerk told Rubin. “It was a great problem to have.”

No wonder most politicians are reluctant to suggest reducing Social Security benefits, what Tip O’Neill called “the third rail of American politics.”

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: Terry Gallagher has written about a wide range of topics. You can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. Email us at OurValuesProject@gmail.com with suggestions for Terry. And Please, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).

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Categories: Critical PatriotismFreedom

Immortality: What about quality of life?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Immortality
Click on this Pew chart to visit the Pew website and read the entire 76-page report.

CLICK ON EITHER OF THESE PEW CHARTS to visit the Pew website and read the entire 76-page report.

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” wrote Benjamin Franklin.

However, both can be deferred, the first by radical life-extension treatments, the second by astute financial planning. As we’ve discussed all week, advances in medicine soon may enable the average person to live to 120 and beyond. So far, we’ve consulted Pew’s new survey to consider how many Americans, personally, would want life-lengthening medical treatments, the ideal life span, whether radical life extension is a good or bad thing for society, and attitudes about the growing demographic of old people.

Today, we wrap up by considering the relationship between views on radical life extension and how optimistic people are about their lives in the future. The key question is: What’s more important to you: quality of life or a long life?

Americans who are optimistic about their lives 10 years from now are more likely to say that they, personally, would want life-lengthening medical treatments, compared to those who are pessimistic. About four of ten (42%) of Americans who think their lives will be better 10 years from now also say they would avail themselves of radical life-extension treatments. Only 28% of Americans who think their lives 10 years hence will be worse say the same.

The same pattern emerges for opinions about the effect of radical life extension on society. Forty-five percent of Americans who think their lives will be better 10 years from now also say that radical life extension would be a good thing for society. About three of ten Americans (32%) who think their lives will be worse 10 years from now say the same.

So, it appears that expectations about future quality of life are related to views about the personal use of life-lengthening medical treatments and evaluations of the effect of these treatments on society.

Do you expect your life 10 years from now to be better, worse, or about the same as now?

How do your views about your future life affect your opinions about radical life extension?

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Immortality: How do you feel about more old people?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Immortality
US Census Data 2000 vs 2010 shows America aging. The gray shadow shows age distribution of the U.S. population in 2000. Blue shows the distribution of ages in 2010 as more Americans move into their 60s.

US Census Data 2000 vs 2010 shows America aging. The gray shadow shows the distribution of ages in the U.S. population in 2000. Blue shows the distribution of ages in 2010 as more Americans moved into their 60s.

The American population is getting older. About 41 million are 65 or older, reports the Pew Research Center, and this number will grow in the years ahead.

Do you think that a growing population of old people is a good or a bad thing for society?

Average age in America is going up for a number of reasons. One is declining fertility. That means more and more Americans are having fewer and fewer children. We are now below the replacement rate of two kids per family. But the American population is still growing, due to immigration.

Mainly, the older population is growing due to advances in medicine and public health that will greatly lengthen life spans. More and more people will be living to 120 and beyond.

Is that a good thing?

Only 10% of Americans think that “having more elderly people” in the population is a bad thing for society, Pew reports. About half (47%) says that it doesn’t make much difference. And, 41% think it would be a good thing for American society.

What are the challenges of an aging population?

Do you think that a growing population of old people is a good or bad thing for society?

Why?

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Immortality: Is it good, bad or even … unnatural?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Immortality
For more than a century, men and women have debated the costs of living too long -- partly on the basis of Oscar Wilde's novel Dorian Gray. This poster is from the 2009 movie version.

For more than a century, men and women have debated the costs of living too long—partly on the basis of Oscar Wilde’s novel Dorian Gray. This poster is from the 2009 movie version.

Scientific advancements may soon turn science fiction into science fact, making it possible for the average person to live to age 120 or older.

Today’s question is: Do you think that radical life extension would be a good or bad thing for society?

Just over half of Americans (51%) say that radical life extension would be a bad thing for society, according to the Pew Research Center survey that we have been exploring in this week’s series. About four of ten (41%) say it would be good for society.

What are Americans worried about when it comes to the use of medical treatments and devices that increase the life span? Equal access is one of the main concerns. A large majority of Americans (79%) say that everybody should be able to get life-lengthening treatments, but two-thirds (66%) also think that only the wealthy will have access.

Two-thirds (66%) also believe that longer life would strain the nation’s natural resources. A majority (53%) don’t believe that radical life extension would make the economy more productive.

And many Americans have moral objections: Almost six of ten (58%) say that these medical treatments would be “fundamentally unnatural.”

Do you think that only the rich will have access to life-lengthening medical treatments?

Would radical life extension strain our resources?

Is radical life extension simply unnatural?

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Immortality: How long would you like to live?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Immortality
Click the chart to read the full report at the Pew website.

Click the chart to read the full report at the Pew website.

Breakthrough medical treatments and devices hold the potential to let us live decades longer. Some say that age 120 and older could become the norm. But, we know from yesterday’s post that most people, personally, don’t want radical life extensions. What, then, is the ideal length of life? How long would you like to live?

Almost seven of ten Americans (69%) state an age between 79 and 100, according to the Pew Research Center survey about radical life extension and aging. The median is 90 years of age. The current life expectancy in the U.S. is about 79 years. So, the ideal age of 90 is just 11 years longer than current life expectancy.

Pew researchers note that one’s views on radical life extension and ideal life span are closely related. Two-thirds of Americans (67%) whose ideal life span is 101 or older also say that they, personally, would want life-extending medical treatments. Only 29% say they would not (even though their ideal length of life is 101 or older).

Among Americans who would not want to live beyond 100, almost six of ten (59%) say that they, personally, would not want to avail themselves of life-extending treatments. About one-third (36%) says that they would like these treatments (though they don’t want to live beyond 100).

What’s the ideal life span for you?

Would you want radical life extension treatments to lengthen your life?

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Immortality: What if you could live (nearly) forever?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Immortality
In 1968, as Baby Boomers were reaching their 20s, Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" played with ideas of immortality. Now, 35 years after the  movie's debut, it's a serious issue for Boomers who are well into their 60s.

In 1968, as Baby Boomers were moving into their 20s, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” played with ideas of immortality. Now, 45 years after the movie’s debut, it’s a serious issue for Boomers who are well into their 60s.

Is living forever (or at least a very long time) just the stuff of science fiction?

Not so, say an increasing number of scientists and futurists. Advances in medicine, biotechnology, and other fields hold the promise of slowing, stopping, or even turning back the human clock.

Let’s start with this question: If medical treatments and devices could let you live to age 120 or older, would you want to?

The possibility of radically extending human life raises a host of moral, ethical, and religious questions. This prompted the Pew Research Center to conduct a survey of Americans, asking about their views of radical life extension, aging, and related matters.

If you said that you would not want these life-extending medical treatments, you have a lot of company. The majority of Americans (56%) says that they, personally, would not want medical treatments that would allow them to live at least to 120. Just over a third (38%) says that they, personally, would want these life-lengthening treatments.

What about other people? Do you think that most people would want medical treatments that let them live decades longer, even if you would not want to?

Over-two thirds of Americans (68%) believe that most people would want medical treatments that greatly extended their lives. Just over a fourth (27%) believes that most people would not want these treatments.

So, we have a curious paradox: Most people think others would want radical life extension, while most people, personally, would not.

If medical treatments and devices could let you live to age 120 or older, would you want to?

Did the paradox surprise you?

How would you explain it?

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