It is not uncommon in a culture to have people to die from misery and despair. Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther was about a German man who kills himself over oneitis. Charlie Brown in the comic strip was driven to madness over his obsession with the “little red head girl,” and many other people throughout history make themselves miserable or destroy themselves over their own personal life situations.
Millennials are not uncommon to this phenomenon, but it is of note to say that many Millennials today are dying “deaths of despair” as due to worsening economic conditions and seemingly no way out they are destroying themselves by their behavior:
There’s been a marked uptick in so-called deaths of despair—those involving drugs, alcohol or suicide—among millennials over the last decade, according to a new report released by public-health groups Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust.
Drug, alcohol and suicide deaths have risen in nearly every age group over the last decade, but the increase has been especially pronounced for younger Americans. Between 2007 and 2017, drug-related deaths increased by 108% among adults ages 18 to 34, while alcohol-related deaths increased by 69% and suicides increased by 35%, according to the report, which drew on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. All together, about 36,000 millennials died “deaths of despair” in 2017, with fatal drug overdoses being the biggest driver.
As in every age group, the opioid crisis has been a major cause of fatal drug overdoses among millennials—though new federal estimates suggest these rates may be starting to slow. Opioids, including synthetic opioids like fentanyl, were involved in the majority of drug overdose deaths in 2017, the new report shows. Meanwhile, heavy drinking seems to be contributing to a disproportionate increase in alcohol-related deaths for younger Americans.
Young people, the report notes, are typically more likely than older adults to engage in risk-taking behaviors—including drug and alcohol use—due to their stage in development. But the report argues that there are also a number of generation-specific factors that are plaguing millennials, including financial stressors stemming from student loan debt, health care and high housing costs. Social support may also be lacking for millennials, as fewer people take part in faith- and community-based organizations and more people delay marriage.
These issues can contribute to mental health conditions, and younger Americans report higher rates of depression and anxiety than previous generations. While there’s never a single cause of suicide, mental health conditions like these are considered a primary risk factor.
The report offers a number of recommendations for slowing these troubling increases in “deaths of despair,” including making treatment and screening for mental health and substance use disorders more accessible and part of routine healthcare; prioritizing prevention programs; making it easier and more affordable for young people to get good health insurance; implementing better drug abuse monitoring and prescription practices nationwide; and further taxing alcohol to drive down sales. It also calls for better substance misuse treatment within the criminal justice system, since a disproportionately high number of millennials are incarcerated. (source, source)
All men are responsible for their behavior, but the fact is that many millennials are living without any semblance of hope of a better life. The few who are “living well” are often times actually not, having leveraged their circumstances by means of borrowed money in the form of credit expansion and with the added sacrifice of having a family or home in the future save for an apartment filled with smelly cats in a dirty section of town.
As I have said before, one cannot fully discount personal responsibility, as this would be wrong. However, the conditions of today are in large part something that was created by previous generations and into which the Millennials were placed, as the first round of Millennials graduated into or just before the recession of 2007. It was largely their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents who set the conditions for the crash, not the Millennials themselves.
It has been 12 years since the crash of 2007, and as I have continued to warn, it appears that another crash is forming in the future based on current economic patterns. It is for the wise to take note of this and begin to prepare for what is coming, for as the effects from over a decade ago have not healed, the next one will surely be worse and lead to continued misery for the Millennials and new misery for the Zoomers and will continue the already difficult cycle current in place.