Having depression is a difficult experience, no matter your age.
There’s no doubt that Baby Boomer (those born between 1946-1964) make up a significant portion of the population. Also, they are starting to retire in greater numbers from the workforce, which is a significant life transition.
As this group continues to age, some have asked the question: Will these Baby Boomers be more prone to experience depression than other generations?
Although this seems like a simple question, the answer is not quite that clear cut.
That’s because there are many competing studies about how much depression will affect different generations. We do know that depression rates overall are rising in the U.S. for all age groups. But are Baby Boomers more affected than other groups?
What do the statistics say?
Evidence Pointing Towards Depression Among Boomers
In 2014, Gallup in partnership with Healthways conducted a survey of 170,000 American adults, creating what they called the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
This survey included four groups:
- Millennials: born between 1980-1996
- Generation Xers: born between 1965-1979
- Baby Boomers: born between 1946-1964
- Traditionalists: born between 1900-1945
What they found was that 14% of Baby Boomers reported that they were receiving treatment for depression. That’s one out of seven Baby Boomers. The next highest category was Gen Xers at 11%. The study also reported that the depression rate for all Americans was 11% as well.
Additionally, Baby Boomers were more likely to have been diagnosed with depression (21%) than other groups at some point in their lifetimes. Clearly, Baby Boomers are experiencing depression on a greater scale, but why?
Why Are Baby Boomers Depressed?
There are several reasons why Baby Boomers are experiencing depression. Some reasons include, for example:
- Stress associated with maintaining a certain lifestyle from material gains and rewards
- Developing a chronic illness or medical condition
- Loss of a partner or spouse
- Caring for a partner or other family member
- Financial issues
- Substance abuse
One other reason why Baby Boomers are experiencing depression is that they are now reaching retirement age. This is a significant life change for many people, and it can be very hard to walk away from a career. Plus, retirement is another milestone in which you have reached a point where there are more years behind you than in front.
The loss of identity, previously provided by a career, and feeling less useful can contribute to depression.
Treatment-Resistant Depression and Baby Boomers
A particular concern is that Boomers seem to be susceptible to what’s called “treatment-resistant” depression.
This occurs in people who have a depression diagnosis, but who do not positively respond to medication treatment. To be diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression, the patient needs to have been treated with at least two different types of medication used back-to-back and not seen any results.
Researchers are studying how to best help these people using different techniques as well as to better understand why this phenomenon occurs.
Generation Z and Depression
As mentioned above, Baby Boomers are not the only generation experiencing depression. One group that is experiencing a rise in depression and mental health issues is Generation Z. These are individuals born between 1995 and 2015. Why is this happening?
In one study measuring loneliness, Generation Z showed higher rates of loneliness than Gen X or Baby Boomers. Although social media can be an easy target to blame, there truly is research to suggest a connection between loneliness and social media use. Those who spend more time online on social media platforms are spending less time interacting with people in real life.
No matter the cause of loneliness, though, it can easily lead to depression. In fact, depression and loneliness can draw a person into a vicious cycle.
Solutions for Depression
No matter what age group that you identify with, it’s clear that depression is a big problem for many Americans. So, what can be done about this problem?
One solution is ensuring that you feel you’re a part of a community and have strong, healthy connections with other people. Being active, keeping your mind sharp, and a willingness to learn also helps. Staying away from drugs or alcohol as a means of coping with stress or other emotions is important as well.
And, finally, if you feel like you are still struggling with depression, consider getting help from a therapist.
Depression is a complicated mental health condition that can be devastating if left untreated. What we are learning is that many people struggle with depression. However, Baby Boomers have their own set of challenges associated with depression, particularly as they get older.
Healthy lifestyle choices can help, but if you believe that you are stuck with depression, don’t hesitate to see a therapist for support. I’d be happy to provide the help you need. Please, feel free to contact me.