Among the generation that has continually attempted to have it all, many baby boomers are now reluctantly adding a diagnosis of depression to their list of gains.
As the leading cause of disability in the United States and worldwide, major depression is an invisible disease that, for reasons unknown, is becoming the scourge of those born between 1946 and 1964. But, unlike other medical illnesses, depression is widely unrecognized and untreated, and often remains an unresolved issue throughout life.
Who’s Depressed and Why?
While baby boomers continue to gain great material rewards and success, their achievements are often the result of a stressful lifestyle. And it’s this stressful lifestyle that many experts are linking to their depression.
“We know for certain that baby boomers have a higher prevalence rate of depression than the generation before them,” says Donald A. Malone, Jr., M.D., director of the Mood and Anxiety Clinic in the department of psychiatry and psychology at the Cleveland Clinic. “The fact remains that we are not sure whybut much of the research is pointing to daily stress as a precipitator of their depression.”
While endless fatigue may seem like a fact of life to the baby boomer generation, experts warn that it should be treated promptly to head off disorders like depression, thyroid disease and sleep apnea. The main message is that depression, and other conditions that may result from fatigue, are not normal and can lead to life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease.
Malone also indicates that women are more likely to be depressed, with nearly twice as many females as males being affected by a depressive disorder each year. Once again, theory has led many experts to believe that it is a woman’s cyclical changessuch as premenstrual syndrome, postmenopausal syndrome and the hormonal changes experienced after giving birththat cause their depression.
But depression doesn’t only affect those between the ages of 37 and 55. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) indicates that nearly two million of the 34 million Americans ages 65 and older also suffer from depression. While the reasons for depression in older adults range from its concurrence with other medical illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, to the isolated lifestyle many of them lead, the result of their chronic depression can be deadly. Older adults are disproportionately likely to commit suicide, with the highest rate occurring in white men age 85 and older.