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Sociologist Julie Phillips Explains the Steady Rise in Suicides among Baby Boomers

Julie Phillip's sobering work on the demographics of suicide supports a pattern first observed by professionals during the 1970s: the rising rate of suicide among the generation of Americans known as baby boomers, first when they were adolescents and now as middle-aged Americans. At first blush, it would appear to be a puzzling phenomenon. After all, this was one privileged piece of demography: people born between the end of World War II and the early 1960s—a period of unparalleled prosperity in the nation that ushered in the relaxing of many rigid cultural and social mores in America.

Through new analytical methods that parse patterns according to the effects of age, specific time periods, and generation, Phillips has developed a sharper picture of the Americans most driven to kill themselves. She believes the data may indicate a “changing epidemiology of suicide.” Historically, the elderly have taken their lives in the greatest numbers. However, the baby boomers ushered in a trend of rising suicide risk that appears to be found among subsequent generations, a trend she predicts will stabilize in the near future. As a result, the middle aged have replaced the elderly as the group most likely to take their own lives.

Read the story from Rutgers Magazine here.




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