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Midlife Suicide Rises, Puzzling Researchers

By February 20, 2008 - 8:43am
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Found this article in the New York Times this morning called Midlife Suicide Rises, Puzzling Researchers


Among the findings ....

Suicide rate among 45-to-54-year-olds increased nearly 20 percent from 1999 to 2004.

For women 45 to 54, the rate leapt 31 percent and it rose 28.8 percent for women 50 to 54. One doctor suggested a drop in the use of HRT may be to blame.

What are your thoughts? What's behind the rise in suicides? Is it drug use? Lack of drug use? Or do you think it's something else?

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Good point Kelley. Here are a few symptoms from Psychology Today to be on the look out for.

* Boredom and exhaustion, or frantic energy
* Self-questioning
* Daydreaming
* Irritability, unexpected anger
* Acting on alcohol, drug, food or other compulsions
* Greatly decreased or increased sexual desire
* Sexual affairs, especially with someone much younger
* Greatly decreased or increased ambition.

Also, Ohio State offers these tips for dealing with the male mid-life crisis which is attributed to both psychological and physical changes:

* Eat right. Use the food pyramid as a guide. Eat a variety of foods and limit fats.
* Stay physically fit. Engage in regular exercise that includes aerobic endurance, muscular strength and flexibility.
* Work more seriously on weight loss. For middle-aged men, maintaining ideal weight is the route to a longer life. On the other hand, weight-cycling or yo-yo dieting is a hazard to health.

* Get regular health checkups. Regular health care visits and screenings are important contributors to men’s health and longevity. Find health practitioners you trust and see them regularly.

* Reduce stress and worry. Stress is a major source of trouble for men in midlife. Reduce stress by living life in the present, letting go of control, dealing with negative emotions and learning to prepare for what is expected and unexpected.

* Embrace a sexuality appropriate to the second half of life. Young men are often focused on a kind of sexuality that is based on immediate attraction to people. In the second half of life, sexuality expands to include more emphasis on friendship, love, intimacy and spirituality.

* Take on new challenges. To keep a supply of freshness and excitement in your life consider going back to school, writing a book or a song or learning a brand new hobby.

* Change the scenery occasionally. A change of scenery improves one’s spirit even if only for short periods of time. Attend an out-of-state conference, plan weekends of camping or boating, visit the ocean, hike in the mountains.

* Rest and leisure are important. A balance of work and relaxation is critical to one’s physical and emotional well-being.

* Talk more freely about you midlife anxieties. Have conversations with those you’re closest to about issues troubling you. While most men are unwilling to share with their wives or significant other what they really feel, over time, such conversations increase one’s understanding and love for each other. So take a risk and open up!

* Care for yourself psychologically. Music and books play significant roles in helping you relax, reduce stress or express yourself.

What are some things you can do to help the man in your life?

Don't joke about what he's going through;
Enjoy your own changes;
Be reassuring;
Encourage him to share his feelings;
Encourage him to become active in groups involving other men.

February 26, 2008 - 9:26am

As scary as this study was about women in their middle age, it was even more scary about men in their middle age and suicide. Men are typically not good communicators so if they are depressed they are less likely to let some one know. This is why its so important if you have a husband or father in this critical middle age, you need to be on the look out for signs of problems. Men are also much more likely to succeed at committing suicide because they typically utilize much more lethal methods of killing themselves.

Can some one out their research and tell us what warning signs we should be looking for in our husbands or male loved ones who are 45-55?

February 25, 2008 - 7:36pm

That article was frightening, those statistics are tremendous.

Middle age to me, is a really funny time. I'll be there soon enough!

It's both a time to look forward and a time to let go. Many have children leave the nest, which can be a relief for some but a terrible burden for others. Marriage can dissolve and health starts to take a downturn. And menopause - enough said there.

It seems that as teens have many issues with going from childhood to adulthood, so do adults going from youth to middle-age.

Some goals have to be left behind, never realized. And that's hard to swallow. The body sags and wrinkles appear. There's a lot of letting go to be done and if the person is not emotionally ready for it, they can become depressed and not see middle-age as a time to enjoy the hard work of youth.

I like the idea of being in my 40s so I look forward to that but the 50s to me seems so very middle-aged with more negative connotations than positive so I'm working on that!

February 24, 2008 - 3:31pm

I agree that a strong support structure is key. Isolation, or at least feelings of isolation, at vulnerable periods of our lives, might be a possibility.

And yes. According to a CNN article,(http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/1999/century/episodes/06/currents/) until the appearance of Prozac in the 1980s, Valium was the largest-selling pharmaceutical drug in history.

At the bottom of the article (from way back) an expert says "There are a group of people in the world, probably a large percentage between 10 and 20 percent, who have a vulnerability to behavioral dysfunction."

Given that statistic, it's interesting that so much emphasis is placed on controlling risk factors for diseases that manifest themselves physically. It seems there's a need to address how we function psychologically and identify risk factors here. Still seems to be some stigma here. Are we making improvements in addressing mental health issues?

February 21, 2008 - 8:15am

This is astonishing. At the same time, I think it probably could be related to a woman's change in life. "Mid-life crisis" conjures thoughts of divorce, sports cars and trophy relationships. But, suicide? This leads me to believe that women at risk lack a support structure, keep things to themselves (as women tend to be more secretive about their most pressing issues) and experience a feeling of hopelessness.

Perhaps the hormonal imbalance brought on by menopause is a contributing factor to the suicide rate among women. Depression is a known contributing factor to suicides among both men and women. In the age group cited, I can see how one's sense of getting old would bring on the depression. Job loss and gender discrimination seems to hit this group harder than younger workers, I think.

I hesitate to attribute the stats on suicide to drug use among the middle-aged. However, wasn't there a time when valium abuse was fairly common among the middle-aged?

February 20, 2008 - 5:58pm
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