Middle age men are dying at a rate that could exceed the number of Aids death toll in America. That was the bold headline of The Guardian news article. “Half a million people are dead who should not be dead,” said Angus Deaton, “About 40 times the Ebola statistics.”
Recent research by Princeton Professors Augus Deaton and Ann Case published by Brooking Institute revealed a shocking increase of midlife deaths among middle-aged American men. “Deaths of Despair” is what they have called this phenomenon.
Their research revealed that the deaths rate among 45-54 men without a college degree increase by 3% over the last fifteen years. Although most of these have been white men, researchers tell us that it’s a growing trend is also increasing among all middle-aged adults. Kind of like a “canary in the coal mine,” an early warning sign that life isn’t working out well for a large number of Americans especially men.
While many attempt to identify the cause on the economic challenges of adults with only a high school diploma, or the opioids crisis, the researchers disagree.
Professor Deaton states: “Economic hardships like unemployment, low wages, and only a high school education may trigger some of these things. However, in the end, it’s a failure of spiritual and social life that drives people to suicide. Suicide didn’t increase like this during the great recession, because we were more connected to family, faith and community support systems.
Furthermore, this trend isn’t happening in Europe where unemployment in some communities is as high as 30%.
Deaton states; “We’ve witnessed the breakdown of the family, the things that make people want to kill themselves or lose the meaning of life is that:
- Your marriage has never worked out
- You don’t know your kids anymore
- Family and community social bonds deteriorating
- Lack of emphasis on connection within your religious community
Churches that are changing the way faith connects in the community; an emphasis especially by the evangelical churches that encourage a personal relationship with a savior. But it’s a very individual experience. Whereas the mainline Protestant and Catholic churches you’re part of a community.
One of the things that you might think when a community is coming apart is less religious observance, but we do not see less religious observance”
Professor Deaton stated that there had not been much decline in church attendance of the usual measure. What has changed is the types of religion people are practicing. Legacy religions have been replaced by “seeking” religions, which put a lot of responsibility on the individual to find his or her own way in the world. Just as one had a job in the same factory as one’s father and grandfather, one would belong to the same church as one’s father and grandfather. The church was a home, a place of security. But now this security is gone. Deaton joked that the Catholic Church was replaced with a 12-step group. However, a 12-step group cannot give people the same degree of security.
One thing for sure, however, is that the suicide rate among men is cumulative in nature: When families fall apart, our children’s lives fall apart, your religion does not provide the same protection, and your job no longer gives satisfaction—factors that are all likely to be associated with suicide. Throw in the opioids crisis, and social disaster occurs.
My conclusion upon reading Professor Deaton and Case’s research is that; “YES,” men are dying for lack of community and relationships. Health men need community, family and a healthy support system. We weren’t meant to do this alone. Isolation slowly but surely sucks the life out of men, ultimately killing them.
So how can we change this? Leaning to develop deep meaningful relationships and connections. Look for recommendations, resources, and relationship/community building ideas in my next few blogs. Share some ideas and resources that you recommend; I’d love to post them. Also check out “Healthy Masculinity: Not a One Man Show.”
I hope today’s blog has encouraged you. Make sure you sign up to receive blogs posted every Tuesday and Thursday. TransformingFamilies.org resources are designed to guide you through the restoration process of developing your heart, mind, and strength, enabling you to become the man God created you to be.
I also provide one-on-one coaching, if you want to improve your relationships, let’s connect through e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. My hope for you is that through these blogs, references, and resources, God will transform you from being bruised or broken to an abundantly blessed man.