Baby Boomers Are Seriously Stressed Out: Study


The number of Americans with “serious psychological distress,” defined as having a mental health problem that requires treatment, is steadily increasing as the years go on. And a new study reveals that a certain generation is especially affected.

Baby Boomers and Generation X have been subjects of study for psychological and behavioral trends, and the latest findings show that they are currently more affected by serious psychological distress than any other generation.

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At present, 3.4 percent of the adult population is suffering from serious psychological distress, which translates to over 8 million people in the United States. Previously, Baby Boomer and Gen Xers were not thought to be much at risk for depression or suicide, but this number has increased from survey results 10 years ago which only showed three percent.

“What’s been most surprising isn’t necessarily that the overall numbers have increased but that the cohort that is most impacted has changed,” said Judith Weissman, lead author of the study and a Research Manager at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “There’s a newfound high-risk group: middle-aged adults; that’s adults from about the age of 45 to 59 in the US, who previously had not been thought to be at high risk for mental illness or suicide, and now we’re finding that they are.”

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Over 200,000 people from over 35,000 households participated in the National Health Interview Survey. The Center for Disease Control conducts the survey every year, and the findings are then gathered and reported. Weissman used these survey results from 2006 to 2014 to compile a comprehensive report on the mental health of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

“Serious psychological distress is a validated scale – it’s well-regarded – that is used in national surveys to measure the mental health of the community,” Weissman said. “So it is picking up on mental illness within the community.”

The survey asked questions about negative emotions, sadness, nervousness, anxiety and more. In addition to the increase of serious psychological distress, there were also interesting findings in the demographics which showed these symptoms. About one-third of people who suffered from a mental health issue did not have access to health insurance, and health care generally deteriorated in these people overall.

Over nine percent of respondents showing signs of serious psychological distress did not have access to a psychologist or other licensed professional, and nine percent did not have health insurance at all. This leaves less than one percent with access to health insurance.

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With the suicide rate increasing to over 40,000 people per year, there is a greater need than ever before to supply treatment to those showing signs of mental illness. On the contrary, the respondents without signs of serious psychological distress were more likely to have health insurance, higher income and better health insurance.

The economic divide is definitely cited as a possible reason for causing serious psychological distress, and health care initiatives have done a part in providing equal services to whomever may be in need. However, the gap is still present and plays a major role.

The findings of this report were published in the journal Psychiatric Services.