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U.S. Suicide Rate Surges to a 30-Year High (nytimes.com)
228 points by Eiriksmal on Apr 22, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 270 comments

Doesn't surprise me unfortunately.

While in theory anyone in the US can make it with sufficient effort, the reality is that some people get economically shat on through no fault of their own. Our national mythology/culture doesn't take this into account, and as a result we're incredibly vicious towards those who struggle.

As more and more capital needs less and less labor to be profitable and create value, we're going to need to find more effective ways to make sure everyone's needed, or things have a potential to get much worse before they get better.

EDIT: As others have noted, we also severely undervalue social capital, so we by and large firesale it to accumulate more material value. We work more instead of spending time with friends and family, thereby dangerously isolating ourselves. Thank you all for pointing this out.

It might very well be because of other factors, as said in the article:

> "She calculated that in 2005, unmarried middle-aged men were 3.5 times more likely than married men to die from suicide, and their female counterparts were as much as 2.8 times more likely to kill themselves. The divorce rate has doubled for middle-aged and older adults since the 1990s, she said."

There has been huge changes in our societies concerning the role of men and women, their relations, when/if they have children, the type of jobs available (which many are soul-wrecking pointless work), the food we eat, the move towards atheism, the increase in material wealth, the Internet...

There is a myriad of possible factors and we need some serious studies before we can reach a conclusion. You can't just say "it's because capitalism" and be done with it.

I agree with you that capitalism alone doesn't increase suicide, but needing to sell all of your time/energy to keep a roof over your head and food in your mouth and still being told you're not good enough is depressing as all hell.

We severely undervalue social value for material value, and we're suffering horribly for it.

> needing to sell all of your time/energy to keep a roof over your head and food in your mouth and still being told you're not good enough is depressing as all hell.

This is how it's always been. So that doesn't hold water.

I think the problem is, and you touched on this in your original comment, is that some people don't get a chance to "sell their time/energy".

The unemployment numbers being quoted everywhere are a joke. Those numbers exclude discouraged workers who exit the economy and those people are the likeliest to off themselves.

That's not how it's always been. Americans work unusually hard. In fact, medieval peasants often got more vacation time than Americans did: http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2013/08/29/why-a-medie...

The U-4 (unemployed + discouraged workers) for March was 5.3% as opposed to the U-3 (unemployed) of 5% [1].

1. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm

Tyler Cowen writes: "You sometimes hear there is no evidence of automation putting people out of work, but arguably the automation of manufacturing, plus IT-enabled foreign competition, are significant factors behind this trend."

See the graph here:


Male participation in the wage economy peaked right before the recession of 1958. We have now seen 57 years of decline. Women's participation in the economy peaked in the late 90s. How many decades of decline would you need to see before you feel you seeing a crisis?

Hm, I wonder how they hack these numbers together. I just made up my own unemployment metric, absolute unemployment. A-U = Population - Employees. For US. A-U = 308 mil. - 140 mil.(1) which suggests there is about 55% of the population who are not currently employed. So, A-U - U-4 = the approximately 50% of the population who don't need jobs I guess.


Population in that case includes children and the retired.

Albeit, I hate using the phrase "retired" here. Retired for most simply means the equivalent of someone being born into wealth retiring at age 0.

Anyway, there are around 75 million kids, so real figures are something like 40% unemployed. But a lot of people are working under the table, no longer in classical employment, etc.

Though hopefully the kids are also doing something as well besides just factory public schooling. Figure 1 in 4 is 14-18 and they might have some part time job, albeit unlikely.

There is a fundamental shift to consider, though. A hundred years ago regardless of employment figures most people were farming and by farming that meant the whole family worked together to eat and provide shelter for themselves, and raise enough money to buy that which they cannot provide to themselves.

>a lot of people are working under the table, no longer in classical employment

I suspect this isn't a choice but a result of labor saturating the traditional market.

I upvoted both of you but you seem to contradict each other.. now I start to question my clarity.

I think capitalism became very good at optimizing for profit and it pushes aside faster than ever anything that stays in it's path (and now that's more and more people).

>We severely undervalue social value for material value

Unfortunately the market has spoken: material value.

> Unfortunately the market has spoken: material value.

Society is what we make of it. We still have a choice.

Also, kudos to everyone up the chain in this subthread; this is the discourse I expect when coming to HN.

> the market has spoken:

The extent that the market is a free market is much debated.

I should have used quotes (") around market but I already used my quota of quotes today..

"Underlying social value" is oh so much harder to measure. whose social; whose value?

I have had the privilege of working with someone who grew up very poor. But he had a fully intact, loving, extended family, and as a result, he always knew who he was. His family was also relatively high status and that afforded him opportunities for seeing leadership up close.

Contrast this to people of affluence I've known who've stopped even having a reflection in the mirror. Their identity just disappeared.

>We severely undervalue social value for material value, and we're suffering horribly for it.

I don't think there's wide agreement on just what constitutes social value once you get down to the detail level.

It's surprisingly hard.

I just don't understand "selling all your time and energy." I just don't see that happening. Maybe it's because I've been in all-consuming projects before and a regular 9-5 just seems simple to me now. But even when it was all-consuming, there was plenty of slack time.

> the move towards atheism

Care to explain that? Atheism may be growing--in fact, Wikipedia gives an upper bound of the US atheist population at ten percent[0]--but I've never seen anything resembling what I would call an actual cultural movement towards atheism.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism#United...

I'll bite.

The dominant non-commercial social organ for most people in their local community is their church. Atheists are by definition cut off from this.

There are exceptions of course, Unitarian churches etc, but I would posit that most atheists don't find a comparable social grouping.

Growing up in a mid-sized town, there was a rule about starting your own small business: Join a church.

Once you joined a church (it didn't really matter which one), you gained a lot of social connections that turned into business connections. I don't know if there was any statistical truth to that, but it was definitely accepted in my family's social circle as a rule.

The dominant non-commercial social organ for religious people is their church. There are plenty of Christians that don't go to church.

So...how is this evidence for a social movement towards atheism? Honest question.

I don't think that is the question being answered by the parent. The question is (imo): why is atheism making people worse off?

> why is atheism making people worse off?

Care to put forth any evidence that this might possibly be the case?

http://allendowney.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-retreat-from-rel... This blogger has been covering the phenomenon among college freshmen since 2008. Notably the most recent results segregate none, atheist, and agnostic whereas before it was just 'none', but the effects are the same regardless of which label you want to associate with / avoid.

Personally I think the actual cultural movement towards 'atheism' is simple Leftism. Most people may still believe in the belief of God and thus differ from atheists on the ontological question, but their beliefs about the world in general are vastly different from those of their (for some religions, even still living) ancestors of the same declared denomination and those beliefs are in conflict with classic doctrine.

I think so too. I think a lot of people in the US may believe in God but feel conflicted by the association with Christianity here. Certainly I would. Gay marriage is a really good example of something I support, but if I was in a church part of my tithe would probably go toward challenging it in court.

Many equate "falling religiosity" (which is happening) with Atheism. It's overbroad use of terminology, but the trend is real.



"None" is the fastest growing religious affiliation in the US. It's the movement without a "movement" -- no central organization required.

There are plenty of people who don't affiliate with any religion but who are not, in fact, atheists. Not that it wouldn't surprise me if atheists, as a group, were growing.

...And plenty of atheists who go to church. I know several, and occasionally darken the door of one myself.

Why would an atheist do that?

Actually believing in god the way American Christians understand those words has not been a major part for many religious through history. Religious are about a lot more than just a bearded father figure in the sky.

Social activity.

Basically what Dan said. Community.

You still can't admit to atheism in many (most?) areas of the country without pretty severe social penalty.

Hopefully this is changing, but I think it's less that is atheism growing and more that people are becoming comfortable admitting what they really think.

How can you not affiliate with any god and not be an athiest?

Surely (not athiest) => theist => (believes in a god) => (has a religion)

This is going to sound really dumb, but it's how culture works so bear with me.

I'm nonreligious, I don't care to discuss it or think about religion as a part of my life, but it's okay if others want to be religious themselves.

Why don't I want to be labeled atheist? It's looked down upon and many hardcore atheists are exclusionary.

You know how when someone insists on it being GNU/Linux, but most people don't care? That's why I'm nonreligious (but technically atheist).

I used to tell people that I was an atheist, and my wife told me I was more of a "fundamentalist atheist" because I wanted everyone else to be too.

Now I call myself a "Reformed Fundamentalist Atheist" because it captures that I don't care anymore (reformed), and it sounds enough like a real religion that people seem to accept it as one.

In the spirit of many of the good things on the internet, the Reformed Fundamentalist Atheist church (RFA) is of course an open source religion, under the MIT license :)

Lol, sounds legit.

I have known several people who did not subscribe to any particular religion - actively shunned some - but described themselves as "spiritual". Others are self-described agnostics. Being an atheist is usually considered an active choice, not a passive one.

I think it's more like: made a decision about god? if yes and believe there is one then theist else if believe there isn't one then atheist.

A lot of people I think don't care to form a belief one way or another. I'm not sure what that's called.

This also implies that atheists are more likely to commit suicide. Is there evidence to support that?

Yes, in fact.

This statement as such is still just about correlation, not causation (compare ice cream sales and drowning deaths).

But it has been studied.

* CONCLUSIONS: Religious affiliation is associated with less suicidal behavior in depressed inpatients. After other factors were controlled, it was found that greater moral objections to suicide and lower aggression level in religiously affiliated subjects may function as protective factors against suicide attempts. Further study about the influence of religious affiliation on aggressive behavior and how moral objections can reduce the probability of acting on suicidal thoughts may offer new therapeutic strategies in suicide prevention.*


It makes sense to me.

A religious person in pain without hope looks at suicide as an option and thinks, "I've got it bad now, but it's only going to get worse if I do this..."

Whereas a non-religious person is thinking, "I've got it bad now, but if I do this I won't have to feel anything ever again"

Also: religions usually set up a system of support. You have a "club" of people you hang out with all the time, and it's not unusual to ask for help from the club if your having a hard time. It's also not unusual to get the help you asked for.

Yes. Also, religions/churches often have pastors, imams, etc who act as therapists. Just having someone to talk to may help.

Also because, suicide is forbidden in the majority of religious. God doesn't like it.

I don't know; I just listed major societal changes.

I honestly just assumed it was the case. I don't mind if anyone proves me wrong on this one.

For the discussion I also didn't really make a distinction between a true atheist and someone who believes in a higher power but doesn't go to Church. I should probably have used "secularism".

This. The root of the problem isn't economic - the culture is broken.

It can also be both economic & cultural... Like a lot of things, it's much more subtle and complicated. If it wasn't, we'd have solved it by now.

I don't think there's much of an economic component. If you look at the numbers, people aren't doing badly by historical standards.

Relative poverty is what is at issue, and it's associated with suicide:


Economic turmoil in general is linked to suicide:


>> "I don't think there's much of an economic component. If you look at the numbers, people aren't doing badly by historical standards."

What numbers are you looking at though? If you look at income inequality there has been a significant increase in the last few decades.

Income inequality is a political problem. Nobody shoots himself because a person he doesn't know makes a lot more money.

But he will shoot himself when his wife divorces him and takes his children.

It depends how the income equality comes about. If wages of the rich are increasing but wages of the poor are staying steady or falling (I don't have numbers but that seems more likely to me given the recession/unemployment etc.) life becomes more and more unaffordable for the poor.

Why would life become more unaffordable for the poor even though their wages are steady (which is the case)?

Immigrants and their children now make up more than 25% of the US population. How many poor people can you expect an economy to absorb before wages drop on the low end?

If wages remain steady, then they aren't being adjusted for inflation, and then life starts to become more and more unaffordable.

Immigrants have about as much correlation with poor people as a cloudy sky has with flooding.

We're talking constant dollars. If you want to talk unadjusted we're all in fat city.

You're wrong about the immigrant thing. If you add a third again as many poor people to your population your statistics are gonna show a lot of poor people.

The way I look at it is if you were to walk into a store or restaurant and all you see are immigrants, and you were to somehow get rid of them they wouldn't magically be replaced by citizens. The store or restaurant just wouldn't exist or it would just be mostly empty. I don't think we should be trying to make far fetched correlations between suicide rates and immigration...

You're missing the point. Let's say you have a country with a million middle class people (only). Over a ten year period a million poor people with a sixth grade education and no ability to speak the language immigrate to your country (legally, illegally, doesn't matter).

If you look at the poverty statistics, you've had an enormous increase in poverty and your average wage is much lower. But that's just... math.

Also, those people will push down wages on the lower end. Wages are a function of supply and demand. When you add a whole bunch of people to the supply without increasing demand, the clearing price will be lower just like the price of cars would drop if you doubled production and dumped them on the market. If you're a native born person you're not going to get a raise for a long, long time.

If you really believe suicides are in part driven by income inequality, you can't pretend immigration isn't part of the problem.

So instead of a wall that will cost billions to build and billions more to maintain, we use that money to invest in education, decrease taxes and raise the minimum wage.

Were you not able to make the connection that he wasn't talking about income inequality causing suicides? He was talking about people having less money than before, financial problems, stagnating wages.

But people don't have less money than before. "Stagnating" doesn't mean "going down".

  > "Stagnating" doesn't mean "going down"
inflation means that today's $1 can buy less than yesterday's $1. If your wages are not increasing at least at the rate of inflation then you are steadily getting poorer. After all, 50 years ago you could buy a house in my neighbourhood for about $60k, now it's at about $500k (without any significant changes to demographic/gentrification pushing prices up).

Okay now, let's all get on the same page here. Wages are flat in constant dollars.

Yes, we all know how inflation works.

"It's more complicated than just one factor."

Uses absolute statements based on pure conjecture to defend their points.

American culture is defined by our economy.

The entire genesis of America was directly related to the economy.

No, that's not true at all. The economy was no more important to early Americans than it is anywhere else.

But that is the stuff of Adam Curtis' sad, hollow laughter in his films. It is like Harlan Ellison's favorite trope; we've killed all the old gods and can't remember how to make new ones.

Capitalism literally defines America.

In every comment thread about this news I see capitalism referred to as the probable cause.

You can look all you'd like if you want to be thorough, but I feel like you will discover what everyone already knows.

Almost 0% interest rate is not capitalism. In capitalism you need capital that you have from your hard work to start a successful company. With the current climate you just need better banking connections then your competitor.

Crony capitalism is the status of modern capitalism.

I've seen this a lot in the software industry. A few of my smartest friends, hardest working and most dedicated friends who came from poor / low class families had an extremely poor time getting into the software industry. One was turned down five times in a row for "culture fit".

It's hard to fit in with rich whites / asians who have a boat from their parents and wear designer clothes when you spent your whole childhood playing with cards and worrying about money.

> It's hard to fit in with rich whites / asians who have a boat from their parents and wear designer clothes when you spent your whole childhood playing with cards and worrying about money

As a rich white/Asian, I agree. Now what? We will all go back to coding in atom/vim/etc and continue our lives, forgetting we ever had this whole conversation.

You're gesturing here at a general lack of engagement in solving these difficult social problems, then coming to the nihilistic conclusion that, since nobody else (that you can perceive) is engaging with them, it's a lost cause.

I don't say this in anger, but it's a lost cause entirely because you (and many others, past versions of myself included) choose to believe it's a lost cause. Us all going back to our editors and forgetting this conversation in defeat is a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it's particularly insidious to publicly acknowledge your privilege and then make this gesture, because it sets an example for others of your level of privilege. It's isomorphic with the problem of white people who support the BLM movement in spirit, but think they can't become proactive allies to black America because they don't know how - but it's not a matter of knowing, it's a matter of taking actions, often difficult and uncomfortable ones.

I don't know about your local tech industry, but in west coast tech companies I've worked at, and among my friends, people of all backgrounds have thrived.

If anything, I see very FEW people who were born with the proverbial silver spoon on their mouths.

thrived once on board, yes. It's the filter at the top of the funnel that's screwing them.

As an Asian I disagree. I have never seen a rich Asian kid in technology. most of them arrived in the country and got richer. Asians are kicking ass taking benefit of free market economy in this country. Many of us could not even speak proper English before we came here. If an Indian whose family's net worth < $10K can come here and succeed I think those who cant have nothing but themselves to blame.

Doesn't that disregard the fact that most Indians who might want to come to the US and succeed can't? You're looking at a relative handful of successes and disregarding all the people who didn't make it.

I was never depressed when I was poor, only when I was pulling in lots of money and spending all week at the office.

I think the main factor is sustainability and stability. I was not very happy when I was hovering around ramen profitability because it was not sustainable.

On the contrary, I've been most depressed when my life was at a complete stable standstill.

I had money. I had sustainability and stability. But I was not happy.

In fact its pretty silly to think either of those things create happiness or are even the precursors to it.

I have never been depressed when I was poor either, but now that I am not I worry about not being able to pay for the fancy schools and activities I send my kids to.

I'll take your money if that will help you with your dire situation.

Agreed, and this is I think why we need to start implementing a Basic Income right away, especially as we're automating away so many low-skilled jobs. There's tons of low-skilled people who just can't make ends meet on whatever low-paying job they have (today's huge housing prices have a lot to do with this), and just aren't going to be able to get themselves a higher-paying job, and they're in great danger of losing their jobs to increasing automation. They still have a lot to contribute to society, just not economically. With the abundance of resources we have, it should be possible for people like this to have a decent home (maybe not in a high-demand high-rent district though) and live a peaceful, enjoyable life without having to slave away at two jobs trying to make ends meet.

I think it's very simplistic to say income is the driving force in these numbers. And I would be careful about explaining phenomena like this with your own personal beliefs about society.

Heres the very first study I found when googling income inequality and suicide [0]:

> Our results indicate that there is a statistically insignificant positive effect of inequality on the incidence of suicide.

0: https://ideas.repec.org/p/adv/wpaper/200613.html

>I think it's very simplistic to say income is the driving force in these numbers.

For some groups of people (farmers, vets, construction workers) the correlations between the economy and suicide is very clear. There's pretty good correlation between economic downturn and increased rate of death by suicide.

It is simplistic to just say "it's the economy", but the economy is pretty clearly one important factor.

And yet that study is across 40 countries. It would have been nice if before putting that forth as evidence to the contrary, you'd read the second sentence of the abstract upon which you'd have found it's not relevant (at least, it's not relevant in the way that you cherry picked that quote).

Having said that, your first paragraph is spot on.

Isn't part of the problem you are identifying thinking about it in terms of people being needed? I think people generally want to have purpose, but I'm not sure fulfillment has to be achieved by answering some external need.

Well I don't know that it's the economy by itself. The data shows the suicide rate declining for black men, but their unemployment rate doubled during the recession. Let's be careful not to peg a complex social phenomenon on the economy alone.


Citation: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/suicide/rates_1999_2014....

Figure 2

Other countries where it is harder to make it financially have lower suicide rates

Here is my take: It is not just about religion. Having been born in a third world country but now in the US, I'm struck, by looking at those less fortunate, how much more (socially) devastating being poor here is.

People often talk about how the poor in the US still live better than the poor in the third world, but the poor in third world countries are not excluded from renting relatively decent places because of bad credit, they don't give away their class by their bad teeth, they (mostly) do not have to sleep under bridges (unless they have serious mental issues), their mobility is not restricted by the need to have a car (which all the attendant on-going costs), and so on.

I could be dirt poor in a third world country and people will not avoid me like I am some sort of defective, repugnant, morally challenged person; I am still normal.

I can verify this, having been poor in a very affluent part of the world, and having spent a huge amount of time in very inaffluent parts of the world.

Thanks for the insightful comment.

> I could be dirt poor in a third world country and people will not avoid me like I am some sort of defective, repugnant, morally challenged person; I am still normal.

Very good point. I have been living in a lower-middle class neighborhood in one of the world's poorest countries for around 3 years now, but I'm originally from the US. There are fewer inherent indications of wealth vs. poverty here, whereas in the US you can often tell at a single glance. Even if you literally strip away social indicators like clothing, I think I could gauge someone's economic status from their naked body (sadly), and if not that, then definitely from their dialect.

Poorer countries are on average more religious and more religious countries have lower suicide rates http://www.gallup.com/poll/108625/more-religious-countries-l...

More religious countries may have lower incidents of suicide but they don't seem to be enjoying the life they do have as much as the less religious countries. None of the top 10 countries according to the World Happiness Report[1] are religious. On the other hand, of the top 10 religious countries, according to your link, the highest ranked for happiness is Thailand at 34. This shouldn't be terribly surprising since it is a deadly sin to commit suicide in most of the Abrahamic religions and the more devout you are the more likely you are to adhere to this particular tenet.

[1] http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2015/

Or all the unhappy people in the happiest countries killed themselves.

80% of the US is affiliated with a religion.

Self identification, affiliation, and membership are not synonyms.

Any analysis blaming the US suicide rate on individualism has to somehow cope with the fact that in (relatively) collectivist countries with similar incomes (UK, France, Japan) the suicide rate is much higher.

UK suicide rate is about half that of the US, according to Wikipedia (6.2 vs 12.1 per 100k per year).

Violence is structural.

Would you mind elaborating on this? I'm afraid I don't know what you mean.

Not the commenter, but I came across this term in the book Fields of Blood by Karen Armstrong. Essentially society requires violence to function. In the beginning, someone had to coerce farmers to produce a surplus, with this surplus the first states and militaries were built. As societies evolved, the violence became less overt and more implied, embedded within the structures of the state. At some point, in order to have a society and not anarchy, you have to have people telling other people what to do, and these people can't take no for an answer. All you can do is reshuffle it so it's less and less onerous over time.

It's a thread that runs throughout the book, in order to explain religion and nationalism and war were deeply entwined all throughout recorded history and well into prehistory for as long as we've had the mental capacity to think about matters larger than we are.

Society and anarchy are not mutually exclusive.

Depends on how you define the terms.

The most common definitions of political anarchy (if you will, as opposed to simplistic "anarchy = chaos" definitions) indicate that it's a form of society. Typical tenets include free association and mutual aid, which are inherently social concepts.

Can you give me any real-world examples of an anarchic society?

Violence was always structural. That doesn't explain an increase in suicides.

Perhaps now that the rising tide that floats all boats that America had going from the 40s-80s (or something like that) has peaked, suicide rates are just going back to normal.

It's pretty rare throughout history that your kids will almost surely be better off than you were. We enjoyed a brief spurt of that here in the US. It's probably over. Welcome back to the old normal.

Is war as old as gravity?

One thing people don't seem to want to discuss (even in this thread) is that humans are social creatures and that our society has become increasingly anti-social. One representation of this (out of several) is the changes in how dating and the relationships between men and women work in modern society. Some of these changes are clearly good, but I don't know that all of these changes are good. There's more people who are single now than ever before, and many of them find it difficult to impossible to find a significant other. This has become so common at this point that it's a running joke in mainstream media about people currently in their late 20s/early 30s.

Meanwhile, I have several male friends whose complete inability to find a suitable relationship has lead them into dark and deep depressions, including attempted suicide. Obviously there's more at play here, but I think this is one thing that we hardly ever discuss as a society, how important it is that each of us feel loved. How important it is that we have someone to come home to every day. How the changes social media and the Internet have wrought on society lead us to spend more time in front of a screen than in front of another human being forming a real connection. I'm sure these issues affect women just as deeply as they affect men, but I feel like men seem to consider suicide as an option more than women, especially as they age. It seems strange that we've put so much effort into this issue yet it still seems almost insurmountable to catalog and connect the people who are desperately single with each other.

Excellent point. I would like to add that in modern society, its not just finding a significant other, but even maintaining relationships that are changing very rapidly. So, for people who find it hard to find a mate, first: they are already at a disadvantage. Next, even if they do manage to somehow find someone, they have to deal with this new dynamic as well.

I really wish that more men in the US would be comfortable talking about relationships. Many (especially in the tech community) accept their current status as something that cannot be changed and resign themselves to a life of solitude. Women (in my anecdotal experience) do a lot better perhaps because it is much more socially acceptable to talk about relationships and dating.

I think this is one thing that we hardly ever discuss as a society

Yes. Or if we do discuss it, it's to laugh at the loser geek virgins. Admitting that you're single and wish you weren't is extremely low-status, possibly even more so than admitting you have a mental illness.

My family immigrated to the US from Russia back in 1998. We were below poverty-level poor. It was a real, tough struggle to stay afloat, but I never remembered the sense of dread, desperation or depression. You were just too busy surviving. 18 years later and we have cars, houses, bank accounts, 401(k)s, IRAs, stocks and etc and I've never seen my family more miserable than I do now. I really had no idea what depression even was until we came here and I started struggling with it and finally went to a therapist after I couldn't take it any more. Sometimes when you don't have much you appreciate what you actually have and that's more than enough to live for.

Fortunately or unfortunately many more people will be confronted with this problem as affluence increases across the world. Once your material needs are met, a big motivation to press forward in your life is removed. There can also be some disappointment that your happiness level continually acclimates to wealth such that there is no big improvement in happiness, only fleeting thrills with each new purchase. Philosophy, identity, ethics, morality, and theology all take on practical significance once we have the luxury of reflection.

I actually think debt-driven consumerism is a sort of comforting treadmill for a lot of people, as they never need to change their way of living if they are continually on the verge of material deprivation.

On the whole this is a good thing though. Nothing forces you to be unhappy if your material needs are met. At that point it's all in your head.

I've seen the same thing happen to a number of people.

It's simply people who only know how to live as if they're on a combat mission.

Once they come back home and there are no bullets buzzing by, they realize they don't know what they were fighting so hard for - they realize they don't know how to live a 'normal' life.

My dad is like that - when he has free time, he does nothing with it. When he doesn't have free time - he wishfully speaks of winning the lottery and having free time.

I have a theory that people who believe life is about strife and that everyone's out to get them - when they finally reach a place where there's no strife and no one out to get them, they still continue fortifying against enemies that never come.

The ridiculousness of fighting invisible enemies causes depression. It's simply a call to open up, to see that there's more to life than fight or flight.

> when he has free time, he does nothing with it.

Is he sad about this though or does he enjoy doing nothing?

If you ask him, he says he's doing fine. If you look at how he lives his life - you'd see a different picture.

That's the thing right, he's still deep enough in the fight-or-flight to think he's as happy as can be, given what a shitty world we're living in.

Little does he know, he's not living in a shitty world, it's his beliefs that are the main barrier to living a different life.

An external struggle can be empowering and meaningful. It's when the struggle is over and the dream is not all it was cracked up to be that we begin to struggle with ourselves. And that is depressing. Now we are enslaved and fighting the meaninglessness of our jobs, even if it's the same job that carried us. Money has nothing to do with happiness. The best part of wealth is wanting it.

But the solution for this is actually not that difficult. Just keep going. Don't settle. And look to bigger and better things. Move your inner struggle to something external, and work hard on it.

No one is suppose to be happy. That is, by definition, a sad state to be in.

>But the solution for this is actually not that difficult. Just keep going. Don't settle. And look to bigger and better things

Or, find something that is more meaningful to you. That might be: working for a non-profit helping people, creating your own startup, etc.

Keeping on the rat-race treadmill isn't necessarily a good solution for many people, as it can lead to further depression.

Absolutely. Also, for many immigrants, the American Dream can end at being working middle class with a house and enough money to pay for their child's tuition... except, being middle class in the US is no walk in the park.

Do you have a blog or twitter I can follow?

Can you pinpoint what it is about US culture that creates the sense of dread and depression for you and your family?

IMHO it's that our goals are not for things that are fulfilling. The "American Dream" is a house, two cars in the garage, a couple of weeks of vacation, money in the bank, looking forward to retirement, clothes, iPhones, etc.

None of that brings happiness. Sure, having the necessities is important. But there is very little happiness in a $50K car over the $10K car, but that extra $40K had real costs -- it took a lot of effort, stress, time, etc. So over and over we trade effort, stress, time, etc for things that don't bring happiness. After a while, we're just weary of life.

I don't know what the solution is exactly. It definitely revolves around relationships with people. Helping them. Listening to them. Cooking for them. Raising them. That is where fulfillment and joy are found.

Take that $40k you would have spent on a car and invest it so you can retire earlier. This realization clicked for me when I heard about Financial Independence / Early Retirement. Don't buy fancy possessions, buy time. You can use that time to focus more on your relationships. Mr. Money Mustache comes off as over-the-top but his blog and others like it touch on these themes.

It's individual, isn't it?

You've mentioned people - it's about relating with them.

The same with everything else - learning to relate to your body as it grows older, to people, to your work/hobbies of choice.

The times are changing and the old modes of relating have been shaken up. This can be seen as a blessing or a curse - you definitely have to put in the extra effort to find your way nowadays. On the upside, there's more opportunity than ever to do so. Plus the internet, that helps :)

Not the parent commenter, but I feel it's because our society doesn't value knowledge or scholarship. Whenever I get depressed, I feel it's because I want to spend time learning and discovering but instead I'm forced to race against all the other rats just to have a decent standard of living (and I'm not talking about $50k cars). There's no time or energy left to, say, study differential equations or chemistry or anything that would actually benefit humanity. Instead, I must devote myself to activities that essentially have no value.

I feel pretty similar. There's so much I want to explore and learn and I want to do it forever. If I'm stuck doing something I hate all week and then I'm too worn out to do anything in my down time I'd rather just not be here. :(

It is sometimes easy to forget to acknowledge the bubble we find ourselves in, in modern life.

In a group of professionals where we are taught "the sky is the limit!", it is important to remember that for the vast majority of our brothers and sisters on this earth, not only is the default difficulty of life set to hard but the deck is also stacked against them in every game.

Last year an acquaintance killed himself. He was a bright young software engineer at one of the hot companies in our (small) city. Had an active social life and close friends, was in a relationship of several years. From the outside it looked like he had things going for him. However he apparently also had a long history of depression.

Just because we have so much more than other groups doesn't mean we have it made.

The expectations we put upon ourselves or are put on us can be higher than what we can achieve - being moderately well off and intelligent in the richest country in the world makes it very easy to be a disappointment to yourself or others, despite whatever success you may feel - it will never ever be enough.

This is keeping up with the joneses, just instead of the shiny new TV its a more ephemeral "life experiences" and success. Now, with the internet you're not even competing against your neighbor, you're competing against the world. Guess what - the world is always doing something more interesting, being more successful, having more fun than what you're doing. HN in particular exacerbates this issue. For some reading about successes is inspiring - for others it just shows them how far of a gap they have to go.

> the world is always doing something more interesting, being more successful, having more fun than what you're doing. HN in particular exacerbates this issue

HN? Aren't you talking about Facebook? Here now, I formulate another hypotheses about this suicide level rising: Facebook is causing suicide! Everybody is happier there.

Everyone is more productive, smarter, more successful than you on HN.

And Instagram.

I can relate to this and have each reaction at different times.


Depression is an illness, often outside people's control. One might just as well be surprised to learn that a colleague broke his leg.

Absolutely. My reflection was inspired by the parent's comment, not on suicide in general. We should keep an eye out for symptoms in our friends despite their public façades and lend a hand if appropriate.

> Depression is an illness Well, not really. Depression is a "disorder". You can be more biologically predisposed to depression, but that isn't the same thing.

We don't know what causes depression, and there's a lot of evidence that it is an illness.

Sure, but unless you work remotely it's usually harder to hide the fact that you broke your leg.

People manage to hide being gay, heroin addicts and other things. Hiding depression is easy.

> People manage to hide being gay, heroin addicts and other things.

> Hiding depression is easy.

That's exactly what the OP said. On the other hand i'm not sure what homosexuality has to do with addiction, fractures or depression.

An experienced AS400 programmer in our organization recently shot himself ( 2013 ). His decades of RPG experience failed him. He tried but never made the transition to web development from the green screen. He never survived to retirement.

> He tried but never made the transition to web development from the green screen

Not really anything to stress about - AS400/RPG guys are some of the most sought after programmers and can get paid pretty much whatever they want.

Happiness seems to derive from personal achievements. I fear we are headed towards a future wherein most people's basic needs of food, shelter, and entertainment are met but with relatively fewer opportunities to satisfy the need for accomplishment, at least by traditional definitions -- comfortable lives of quiet desperation.

I disagree. I think happiness mosty derives from companionship, eating well, and being in the sun.

It is capitalism that drives the need for achievement without reason.

They keep raising the age for retirement in the UK. One of the politicians said something along the lines of "Well what else would you do all day if you didn't have a job?"

It scares me that people like that are in charge. Don't these people do things for enjoyment? Have hobbies? Have a social life?

Most people on HN have aspirations, drive and ambition. Most people I know don't really care about working other than they wished they could work fewer hours. Most of us have lots of other interesting things to do in life...

They were talking about raising the retirement age in the US during the election debates also.

Whenever I hear this I think "fine, I like working, but it's hard enough getting hired after 50 never mind 60". What are they expecting all these 66 year old people are going to be doing?

Yeah, the only people who think that a 66 year old can work full time has only ever worked behind a desk.

Try swinging a hammer 8 hours a day when you're 60. Good luck.

The people I know with jobs that provide autonomy, respect, satisfaction of intellectual curiosity, socialization and decent compensation don't seem to want to retire at any age, and are usually forced out due to physical limitations. On the other hand the cubicle-dwelling worker bees start to lust after retirement in their 30s and 40s. I think this heavily depends on the job and is more of a reaction to specific employment environments rather than the concept of any professional work period.

It's very very hard where I live to find a job that pays well, it's almost unheard of to get a silicon valley type job with 20% time and to be working on something amazing and cutting edge.

A lot of people on HN seem to want to start or join a start up, work hard, sell it for lots of money and then use that money to enable freedom of choice (work/life balance.)

We just don't get those sorts of jobs here, so hobbies and time in the pub is important.

Completely agree with this. It really depends on what kind of job you work in. Most software engineers in the US are probably very satisfied with what they work on. But I've seen many friends in other countries who hate programming, since they work for outsourcing firms that don't allow for much creativity/freedom.

Every coding job I've had is beset with the owner saying "Well we're running out of money - anyone got any ideas on what to do about it?"

Retirement is unnatural.

You mean it does for you. I have no idea what works for other people. I like Shaw's dictum "We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it." and "A lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth"

Capitalism is merely a description of people's desire to trade goods and services with each other with as much freedom as is compatible with civil society. It didn't need to be invented; it was a natural occurrence. I do understand that some people would like to prevent that from happening.

I think personal autonomy and collective responsibility are what would make me happiest. I'm lucky to have a job where i have a little bit of both, but so long as i have to devote most of my hours to pay rents upon rents and barter for my survival, i can't have much of both.

Happiness arises from either self-sacrifice for humanity, or through social connections (typically family). Rarely does one have the good fortune to find happiness through both means, as both of these typically require life devotion to achieve.

The term 'achievement' will just be different. Right now artists feel personal self worth when they receive large amounts of acclaim for their work. This is true in any creative work. Us, working professionals, being freed from work, will seek to achieve other things--like building the next awesome x y or z--I think that will still give us the feeling of achievement we long for.

i also disagree. personal achievements are what make a life sound good on paper, that's all. they're the things people might list off when trying to explain to themselves why the should be happy.

Suicide is rising because basic needs aren't being met.

Even inside our bubble, the sky is not necessarily the limit.

But humans always judge themselves in context. If you are born in poverty and with no opportunity to make it you probably don't feel ashamed of yourself for not making it.

It is different if you are given all sorts of opportunities in the form of a great upbringing, good school, loving parents and still you fail, at least in your own eyes.

Semi-random thought about the article on middle class people who can not afford a $400 emergency a few days ago[0], media creates remarkably unrealistic expectations. In that article someone estimated that one needs $100k - $150k for a middle class live. Or rather for the expectations of a middle class live.

An example is people tweeting food, if you follow thirteen people who post pictures of their lunch, then you will only have a comparatively good lunch once every two weeks. (And that is only if you don't follow people whose job is to post amazing food.) Similar, TV is full of people who complain about being poor sitting in an apartment with Hudson river view. ( It does not help, that the apartment looks like it was designed by an $5000/hr interior designer, because the director wanted it to look good and hired an $5000/hr interior designer.)

Basically this is a variant of Charlie Stross's idea, that news acts as a depressant, because that is the kind of news that sells. ( And is usually a lot easier to write.) Old-media is full of the kind of middle class existence that is at three times the median income, while social media means that the expectation is to keep up on average with the maximum of your peers (because only the best is posted).

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11527523

[1] http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2013/04/psa-igno...

> An example is people tweeting food, if you follow thirteen people who post pictures of their lunch, then you will only have a comparatively good lunch once every two weeks.

This is a great example, and it applies to everything. Looking at stoves? Your buddy just got a top-of-the-line range. Looking at lawnmowers? Another buddy of yours got a $3,000 riding mower. Looking at cars? Another friend just bought a BMW.

As a result, you get the extremely powerful feeling that you should own all of these while in reality, your friends splurged on one thing.

I set up a home gym a few weeks ago. Just like everyone else, I happily posted it on Facebook and contributed to the problem. The thing is, I don't really do anything else; I'm too goddamn busy to go out, to go on vacation, to buy a boat or fifth-wheel or anything like that. I saved up for two years to buy it, too. But that's not the message that gets posted on my Facebook wall right alongside the fantastic vacation that someone else took, the $200 that another person spent at a fancy restaurant, the new car that the next person bought...

Facebook and the media make everyone compare their daily life to everyone's highlight reel. And that's really, really dangerous.

I think a major part of happiness is overcoming the basic drive humans have towards mimetic desire - if one six month old grabs the toy fire truck, the other one will instantly want it.

Not only are you less consumed with it, it frees up money for what you can do to actually improve your lot in life.


Crisis Text Line provides free assistance to anyone who texts “help” to 741-741.

If you prefer to talk on the phone, N.I.H. recommends the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

I pulled some WHO data for a collection of North American and European countries over the last thirty years[1], and while it's factually accurate that US suicide rates are at a 30-year high the rate remains middle-of-the-pack for developed Western nations. The "surge" is a small absolute increase from the 30-year baseline.

That does not make it any less tragic or less deserving of attention, but we should pick appropriately-scaled policy solutions instead of those we might use for a crisis. (The NPR piece today about suicide rates in Greenland strikes me as an extreme crisis.[2])

It's also worth noting, for all the people pointing out economic causes for increased suicide, that economically-battered Greece has by far the lowest suicide rate in this group.

[1] http://imgur.com/OKnsBF4

[2] http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/04/21/47484792...

Was reading the other day on hn about the reporting of suicide on US death reports, and how it is common to track suicide or suspected suicide as accidental death. In Europe there are generally fewer chances to report this was as we (generally) do not have access to guns which make up the majority of accidental deaths recorded. So the suicide rates in the US are likely much higher that currently tracked or reported. Can't find original thread, but just found post linked to below. ---

some detail here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11551308

But did suicide rates in Greece go up, or stay the same?


>Results The mean suicide rate overall rose by 35% between 2010 and 2012, from 3.37 to 4.56/100 000 population. The suicide mortality rate for men increased from 5.75 (2003–2010) to 7.43/100 000 (2011–2012; p<0.01). Among women, the suicide rate also rose, albeit less markedly, from 1.17 to 1.55 (p=0.03). When differentiated by age group, suicide mortality increased among both sexes in the age groups 20–59 and >60 years. We found that each additional percentage point of unemployment was associated with a 0.19/100 000 population rise in suicides (95% CI 0.11 to 0.26) among working age men.

> Conclusions We found a clear increase in suicides among persons of working age, coinciding with austerity measures. These findings corroborate concerns that increased suicide risk in Greece is a health hazard associated with austerity measures.

They did go up, but in a country of only 11 million people Greece's low rate means annual suicides went up from approximately 370 people to 501 people. My point is simply that the relative measure (35%) might lead us to inappropriate policy solutions versus looking at absolute measures (131 additional suicide deaths in an entire country per year) or deviation from comparable nations.

"Researchers also found an alarming increase among girls 10 to 14, whose suicide rate, while still very low, had tripled."

It is tragic that girls of that age range kill themselves at all. By 2014, their suicide rate rose to the level of boys' suicides in 1999.

Meanwhile, boys' suicide rate between 1999 and 2014 rose even more than girls. This however, is not alarming for some reason.

It's not alarming (to the average person) because in the human species, females are precious and males are disposable. You can see this theme running throughout a huge gamut of social situations and media.

When bad things happen to girls, this triggers a low-level concern response that isn't triggered when bad things happen to boys.

Boys are supposed to get back up, shake it off, and try harder. If they kill themselves, we feel a little bad, but the badness is the same level (give or take) as throwing away a plate of food before it was finished.

It has taken me a very long time to accept this as true (and am far from accepting it as right).

This isn't surprising at all. Social media permeating every inch of our souls, just drowns people in everyone else's seemingly perfect lives. When people view Facebook feeds of everyone on vacation, eating amazing food, taking amazing adventures. It makes you feel like you're missing out on all of that, and that your life can't possibly compare. While in reality, it's many cherry picked snippets of potentially hundreds and thousands of lives. I've certainly caught myself being worried about not being at my maximum potential, why didn't I go to an Ivy league school, why didn't I work harder and play with the big boys Silicon Valley, why am I not out traveling the world living carefree. However from any outsider, I'd be viewed as incredibly successful. It's a sad state to be in, and you just have to distance yourself from it. It's awesome to have goals, but you can't expect to be able to achieve the goals of hundreds of people simultaneously.

I know it's anecdata, but as someone with a history of depression, social media doesn't bother me one bit. In fact in some ways I'm rather addicted to it, always looking for a new article to read, or a cool picture to see.

When I'm on vacation, I happily post photos of said vacation. Then when I'm back at work, I happily look at photos of my friends' vacations and wish I was there with them instead of stuck at work!

I guess it depends on what sets you off -- or maybe my ability to cope with internal issues means that external things simply don't bother me -- you bought a cool car, wow, I wish I had one! But I'm able to be grateful for what I have, and I've recognized what kinds of material things make me happy what what don't.

About social media - all I really use Facebook for, primarily, is to stay lightly connected to "friends at a distance" for fear of losing them and not being able to find them again. Something that a contact book could easily solve, as long as you verify the contact methods were still valid from time to time. At least for me, the novelty of sharing/comparing of social details has long worn off.

Not sure the cost of being data-mined is worth the value in the end.

And that makes me wonder... how many people out there feel like an object to be used, mined and sold or sold to, rather than valued as a human being, or find their struggle to be recognized, powerful, wealthy, whatever too overpowering?

The book "Bowling Alone" [1] is an interesting take on much of this from around the year 2000. In theory, social media must have helped with the problems outlined in that book. And yet, I wonder, has the real solution been hijacked by commercialism? Maybe. And what would that book say if written today?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowling_Alone

This, coupled with the incredibly mean people on the Internet, I'd expect. Who wants to reach out when everyone's just a jerk all the time? I'm very guilty of this, too. Reddit, Twitter, and other similar forums are cesspools of hate just as much as they're wells of love. For every Arnold post on /r/fitness encouraging someone, there are 20,000 posts calling OP a fag and deriding someone for asking a simple question.

I feel like the Internet is in its High School years, now. The 90's were like grade school, and prior to that it was kindergarten (70's, ARPANET). Now, we've got gang fights, drugs, ineffective leaders/teachers, lowered expectations, and above all, teenage angst.

Last year I closed my Facebook, and various other social accounts. This year I've stopped using Reddit. They really are just toxic, and incredibly wasteful. I agree, this Internet can be so much more than stupid memes and bullying. Even the concept of the "downvote", should never have existed. Certainly it was started with good intentions to weed out trash articles, but it's never been used properly outside of making someones voice disappear. I don't know what's next, but it's certainly not going to be another social network.

>This year I've stopped using Reddit. They really are just toxic, and incredibly wasteful.

I have to disagree about Reddit. Reddit is a huge site, with over 250,000 subreddits. Some parts of it are indeed toxic, /r/politics is a good example of this. But there's tons of subreddits for various obscure things, and they're nice places to talk to like-minded people. For instance, there's a subreddit for my car, and there's no toxicity there, just people asking questions about stuff and exchanging tips ("has anyone else experienced this problem?"). Or there's subreddits where people just post pictures of stuff and comment on them (/r/earthporn is a good example if you like pretty nature photos).

The toxicity comes when you have a forum where there's wildly divergent views, so naturally something like /r/politics is going to be filled with nastiness (and for good reason: people who support that other candidate are idiots!! :-) But in someplace like /r/earthporn, what is there to fight about? "This picture of the Grand Canyon at sunset is gorgeous!" "No it isn't, you're a moron!" Some things just lend themselves to conflict a lot more than other things. It's pretty hard to get into an ideological fight about a nature photo. So if you restrict yourself to those subreddits, you can avoid any toxicity I think.

What if I want to talk civilized politics? You can avoid toxicity if you find some really niche subreddits. However if it is an /r/ for anything significantly popular, it quickly divulges it toxic garbage. In your example sure, /earthporn/ is neat, but forums dedicated to just reposting pictures, are just another wasteful time sink for me. I get what you're saying, I do. I've just given up on wasting my time there.

>sure, /earthporn/ is neat, but forums dedicated to just reposting pictures, are just another wasteful time sink for me.

You could say the same thing about a lot of things, including playing video games, posting here on HN, spending time with your family or kids, or anything else that doesn't directly make money.

If someone enjoys it, it's not a "wasteful time sink" any more than playing a crossword puzzle or watching a movie with your spouse.

>However if it is an /r/ for anything significantly popular, it quickly divulges it toxic garbage.

I disagree; /r/earthporn is significantly popular, and /r/aww is extremely popular. They aren't full of toxic garbage. When it's just pictures of cute cats, it's pretty hard to have a serious argument.

More focused groups, like the one for my car, aren't nearly as popular, but not everyone has the same interests, so of course a particular car-based subreddit isn't going to be nearly as popular as something that affects everyone, such as /r/politics.

Politics is especially bad because it literally affects everyone (there's no one now who doesn't live under some government), frequently in a rather profound way (the laws that are passed will directly affect your livelihood, and could put you in jail or get you killed), and our leaders are mostly a bunch of sociopathic, corrupt, evil people, and on top of all that, none of us (assuming you're an American, as /r/politics caters to American politics) can remotely agree on how our country should be governed (some people want outright communism, others want corporate fascism, others want democratic socialism, others want a theocracy, others want near-anarchy).

So in summary, if you want to avoid "toxic garbage", it's pretty simple: find a forum that's full of very like-minded people, and avoid anything that delves into politics. Or if you want to talk about politics but avoid nasty arguments, make sure to find something close to an echo chamber for your preferred candidate/party/orientation.

I totally understand. When I comment on Reddit, if it's not in agreement with the masses, I end up being downvoted and argue with people. Then I quickly realize - WHY!? A total waste of my time.

It's exactly the same here on HN. I get downvoted all the time, and usually for rather innocuous stuff too.

"You can't expect to be able to achieve the goals of hundreds of people simultaneously." -- great quote, thank you!

I think the myth of the American dream is an unhealthy contribution. Americans have been bottle feed that anybody can make it in American through hard work. When people fail anyway I suspect it is much easier to blame yourself and look at yourself as a failure to the family that depends on you. Viewing oneself as a failure is a tough pill to swallow for many.

I think many Americans would have a healthier mental state if it was acknowledged that the poverty and unemployment many experience is not caused by their lack of hard work or character but a product of the failures of the society they live in.

America is now one of the least socially mobile places in the western world and yet the majority of American keep believing in the myth that anything is possible.

Unemployment may be going down, but that doesn't count for much when most of the added jobs are $10/hr service jobs.

Not to mention /real/ inflation, not this useless "core inflation" measure (that ignores health/energy among other factors), has been rising.

Medical and energy costs have gone up significantly in the past 15 years.

Energy is actually quite cheap, especially so in the US with the very abundant and globally cheap natural gas supply after the fracking boom.

Things are still pretty bad. Underemployment still hovers at around 15%. Unemployment numbers are pretty useless when someone who lost their full time job, is trying to find another one, and is working a handful of hours part time to get by in the meantime is counted as "employed".

>most of the added jobs are $10/hr service jobs.

People employed at minimum wage decreasing:


Weekly earnings rising (a bit):


Where is your data?

Half of America's top 10 fastest growing jobs pay less than $25,000/yr http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/18/news/economy/fastest-growing...

Your source is for full-time employment. Part-time jobs surged after 2008[1] and haven't returned to pre 2008 levels.

[1] http://blog.indeed.com/the-role-of-part-time-jobs/

>Your source is for full-time employment.

Number of people employed part-time, not by choice...falling:


U6 Unemployment rate...falling:


From those same charts, unemployed part-time not by choice is rising since Oct '15. U6 is constant in that period as well.

Here's a more up-to-date graph of "part-time for economic reaons": https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/LNS12032194

We're down to June 2008 levels, but have a ways to go before we hit December 2007 levels.

2nd link displays median weekly income for full time is ~$350.

350/40 hours = 8.75/hr

Edit: Turns out it's 1984 dollars.

That's $8.75/hr in 1982/1984 CPI adjusted dollars, which comes out to ~$20/hr in 2016 dollars. http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=8.75&year1=1984...

Lots of comments in here about economic factors. It's important to recognize that depression can occur independent of one's situation. There's a stigma around depression which keeps many people quiet when they need help the most. I worry that our decreasing face-to-face interaction and emphasis on individual-success-at-all-costs is worsening this; it's so easy to socially isolate yourself these days.

deadmau5 (Joel Zimmerman) recently admitted to having a serious struggle with depression. [1]

He also just bought a $5 million house in Ontario [2] - case in point that money doesn't buy happiness.

[1] https://thump.vice.com/en_ca/article/deadmau5-opens-up-about... [2] http://www.youredm.com/2014/10/10/deadmau5-buys-5-million-ma...

This is only going to increase. At 36 and considered successful I dread every day. I resent and seethe constantly. I've seen numerous healthcare professionals and feel like each have failed. I only bother anymore because it's expected of me. That matters less and less every day.

All anyone does is pay lip service to any of this. It will get far worse before it's likely to get better.

Honestly, let it come.

Hysterical. The female rate is < 1/3rd that of men and still the articles first five paragraphs focus almost entirely on women.

Isn't this female rate increasing faster than the male rate? If one of your children was behaving badly at school and the other child was normally good but started to misbehave wouldn't you focus on the latter child to see what had changed?

No. The female rate increased less than the male rate.

The male rate was already 3 times the female rate, and increased slightly more -- but because the female rate was so low to begin with, the female rate represented a 200% increase.

Out of 100,000 -- females started off at 0.5 and increased to 1.5.

Males otoh, started off at 1.5 and increased to 2.6.

So the female rate increased more then?

No. The female rate (per 100,000) increased by 1.0 while the male rate increased by 1.1.

1.1 (the male rate increase) is greater than 1.0 (the female rate increase).

Irresponsible reporting however, made it seem otherwise.

Ah yes, normalized deviance.

Very civil disobedience.

Where did you get this number ? I've skimmed the article and couldn't find it. It seemed a little strange they didn't didn't do direct comparisons between genders to me as well.

I couldn't shake the feeling this was to be part of a larger narrative.

Here is a graph from the CDC:


Men killed themselves at about 4.5X the rate of women in the past, and at about 3.5x the rate of women now.

The numbers aren't in the article. The article links to the study -- the numbers are in the study: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db241.htm

There's clearly a socioeconomic issue at hand here.

A somewhat related statistic is the death rate in rural America.


If we see suicide as a mental-health issue, then its just another statistic demonstrating that people are unhealthy.


Quebec has been successful in stopping the rise in rural and native youth suicides.

Curious about the huge disparity between male/female suicide rates in > 75 age group.


I'm curious about this as well, but it seems that the disparity is fairly constant and not just extreme for ages >75. The rate for men is over 4x that of women for ages 15-24 and over 3x that of women for ages 25-44.

There seems to be a variety of possible explanations for the difference [0] (which is common across several countries). One of them is that cultural male gender roles make seeking help a shameful thing, so males are less likely to seek assistance for suicidal thoughts [1].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_differences_in_suicide [1] http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00406-003-0397-6#/...

that age group was particularly interesting because I would assume men and women in that age group would face the same exact pressures. So the usual explanation of 'men are forced by society to be successful which drives them to suicide' won't be applicable.

Right, but over age 75 one would expect both men and women to be facing the same pressures of potentially (a) stopping work and (b) losing a spouse due to death. It appears that both of those can disproportionately affect males in our culture as men are pressured to work hard and provide for their family [0] and when a spouse dies, men do not have the same "social and familial connections" as women for support [1].

[0] http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00406-003-0397-6#p...

[1] http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/352844

They don't face the exact same pressure [1]. Men in this age group worked outside the home, a lot of blue collar jobs. Jobs they cannot perform anymore due to their age. Women more often worked in caregiver roles (more traditionally female occupations like nurses, teachers, etc.) or in the home. The men need to pivot to find fulfillment/satisfaction in life. The women just change who they're caring for (grand children and great grandchildren instead of their own children, or students, or patients).

I suspect that it's significant that the number of suicides over age 75 for men has dropped in those 15 years. Either reflecting a better quality of life, or a change how men are able to find satisfaction post-career.

[1] Ok. I'm making assumptions based on "traditional" gender roles here. But given the age group in question, I feel its justified. The division between male and female roles is far more present in those over 75 than the current working generations. This will change as the population ages, and be less applicable in 20-40 more years. But it's still applicable to this group today.

One really sad thing I've read about older people is what happens when their spouse dies. According to studies, the way men and women handle this is very, very different.

For women, when their husband dies, it's almost no big deal for most of them. They just continue on with their social group, and they can live for decades.

For men, when their wife dies, they usually die very quickly after (and not usually by outright suicide either).

Only if sexual inequality were a myth would you expect the figures to be the same.

A thing often missed when talking about this, is the reaction from health care when men breaks the gender role and do seek help, they are less believed by health professionals than if a woman was seeking help. It should not be very surprising that people who break gender roles are treated differently, but it has quite impact given the vulnerable situation.

This seems to be true across a few different high-income countries too. (When you look at low income countries there's still a difference, but it's much less[1])

So far things it might be are:

1) similar levels of attempts between men and women, but with men chosing more lethal, less survivable methods

2) women talk about their emotions more and thus people spot their signs of distress earlier

3) stigma means men don't seek help

4) men just don't seek help, but not because of stigma

There's big pushes on men to get them to talk more, which is good but misses the point. There has to be some service there for them to use, and I'm not sure those services exist or are good enough. And many men are in the care of specialist mental health services when they die by suicide, so they've already asked for help.

Older people have very high rates of suicide. But it tends to be masked a bit because older people are at increased risk of death from a bunch of other causes too.

[1] http://www.who.int/gho/mental_health/suicide_rates_text/en/

men don't deal with aging as well as women do. cranky old man syndrome is a very real thing

Heh. I've seen this at family gatherings, my grandmother would be happily mingling with everyone and entertaining young kids while my grandpa would be grumpy in a corner.

> Recent research has highlighted the plight of less educated whites, showing surges in deaths from drug overdoses, suicides, liver disease and alcohol poisoning, particularly among those with a high school education or less.

Why is the article mentioning accidents and diseases? Is it implying that these are counted as suicide? I.e. is this the same research, or a tangential discussion of some other results?

If liver disease was not considered suicide 30 years ago, but is counted a suicide, you will have a jump in the numbers.

More people dying of drug overdoses can easily be pinned on the War on Drugs, which creates an ecosystem such that only brutal criminals get to distribute drugs, and they don't care what they contain since they don't even bat an eyelash when they murder. Overdoes don't prove increasing "plight"; they more directly confirm increasing junk on the streets. Not to mention, new kinds of drugs!

Death by drug overdose would tend to be counted as accidental death. But it's easy to see that it could be a death by suicide. So when people talk about the suicide rate they tend to also mention the suicide deaths that are hidden in the accidental deaths.

> More people dying of drug overdoses can easily be pinned on the War on Drugs, which creates an ecosystem such that only brutal criminals get to distribute drugs,

Lots of US drug overdoses are people overdosing on prescribed opiates. (I agree the war on drugs has caused very great harm).

May be unable to achieve self-actualization in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs

thanks for sharing this!

The absolute rate was 13 per 100,000 people. At that level, a major rise is enough to get public health officials to pay attention, it isn't a signal of our society crumbling before our eyes.

> The absolute rate was 13 per 100,000 people.

That statistic is meaningless if you don't compare it to the absolute rate for other causes of death. In the US, suicide is the second-leading cause of death* of people aged 15-34, and very high on the list for ages 10-15 and 35-54 (source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr65/nvsr65_02.pdf, pages 18-19). "A signal of our society crumbling before our eyes", maybe not, but if the second-leading cause of death in a large age group was a bacterial disease, and it has increased by a double-digit percentage in the last decade, people would be calling that a public health emergency.

* Accidents being #1. And since accidents are, well, accidents, suicide is arguably the leading cause of death that we can meaningfully do something about.

Especially since some of those accidents are going to be death by suicide that went undetected.

The US uses this definition for suicide. http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/suicide/definitions.ht...

> Suicide

> Death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with an intent to die as a result of the behavior.

That "intent to die" part makes it hard to decide whether something was suicide or accidental death, and we know it causes some incorrect classification.

Not sure why the down votes for this, this is a hugely important factor esp when comparing to other countries suicide rates. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11551969

Sure, and we have a huge problem where a public health emergency comes up and then the press freaks out the public, which doesn't understand what a public health emergency means (not a lot for most individuals). Look at the rational response of the government in the US to Zika and the breathless nonsense being spouted in the press.

I think it is at least instructive to look at the rate; I live in a town of roughly 10,000 people. The rate translates into ~1 person here committing suicide in a year. I don't want anyone to kill themselves, but it isn't a shocking number when put in those terms.

I'd really appreciate some help refining this thought but I believe that for low and middle income earners, the pros of living in a city no longer outweigh the cons.

If you're spending most of your time working to make ends meet then here is how I view the two. These are of course relative to living in a small town, not a completely rural setting.


- Large selection of fast food places

- Large selection of stores to buy material junk

- Short travel distances (likely canceled by commute times)

- 24/7 stores


- Expensive housing which forces people to rent small apartments or even rooms that prohibit social gatherings.

- Limited or no personal outdoor living area, backyard

- Expensive or non existent parking.

- No sense of community

- Limited exposure to nature and non developed areas

What I'm trying to get at is if you're simply working minimum wage or slightly above you could get the same job in a small town where you don't have to spend money to enjoy simple pleasures and the cost of living is dramatically lower. Sure you have to buy groceries when the store is open, or drive an hour to a larger town when you need a new computer but seriously I could probably list a 1000 benefits to living in a small town where there isn't a war over every morsel of land, you're more free to use your land as you wish, there are fucking trees and grass, and every move you make isn't watched.

Really hoping someone can bounce a few thoughts back on this. The city and province I live in are facing really dark times and I think this is playing a huge factor.

Interesting you say this. Rural areas, in general, have a higher suicide rate[1]. I grew up in a small town (300 people) and I can tell you that it was quite bleak. I vastly prefer my current life in a small city (65,000 people). At least there are things to do and places to walk to.

[1]: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17219751

So the real-wages economy is still in recession, I bet.

I hope I'm wrong, but I suspect this is an intractable change in our economy. I also have another feeling (in which I once again hope I'm wrong) that a solution to said issue won't come until a lot of pain has been dealt out.

you're not wrong at all. it's clear that modern life/economy is too much for some people to deal with, and we as a society are learning how to cope with that. quite frankly the modern world is turning into a freakshow of epic proportions. media, social and otherwise, reflects that.

i say this as a libertarian -- we're going to have to come to some kind of socialist equilibrium, or else people are just going to keep eliminating themselves, quickly or slowly.

i think a lot of people just don't care if it continues.

I think the flipside of this is that the capital class has the responsibility to deploy the capital in a way that it drives the cost of living down. We need more companies that do more with less (technology in classical sense) instead of less with more (more overpaid people accomplishing little meaningful work). Also, food keeps going up so much in price, I assume for a lot of people inflation is much higher than stated, because gas prices assume they have a car.

That simply wont happen until capital holders are forced to divest themselves of their capital.

Pooling of capital at the extreme right tail of the bell curve is accelerating, not decelerating.

> Also, food keeps going up so much in price, I assume for a lot of people inflation is much higher than stated, because gas prices assume they have a car.

Core inflation numbers do not include food or energy costs.

Slavoj Zizek said, "It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism." I think he should have also added, "or, nowadays, the reform of capitalism".

I may be a seize-the-means-of-production socialist, but I acknowledge that managed capitalism in its Keynesian and social-democratic forms has actually existed and actually worked. What I find weird, a kind of ideological brainwashing on whole populations, is how nobody else to my Right acknowledges this. Everyone seems to pretend that the transition in the '70s-'90s from social democracy to full neoliberalism (ie: privatization, financialization, offshoring of industries, strengthening of intellectual-property laws over the industrial power of physical producers of physical goods) was some kind of mechanistic historical inevitability, as irreversible as gravity or entropy.

The misery and suffering of our people will stop as soon as we stop considering it inevitable and remember the dozens to hundreds of things we can do about it without even having to take riskily radical measures!

Lack of traditional support structures: Family, religion, friendships, etc. are the issue.

A tough economy deals a blow to support structures, but it's not sufficient: Poorer countries don't have as high a suicide rate.

You're right, the absolute quality level of support structures is not sufficient. The sufficient cause is given by the relative decrease compared to the expectations established in the latter half of the 20th century, which the most affected group (middle class in middle-age, i.e. the majority of Baby Boomers) grew up with as understanding to be an expected part of American life. At least us in the younger generation have a more clear eyed understanding that the safety net can be taken away by greed, and if we ever succeed at rebuilding it, we'll hopefully have the foresight to make it more robust against neoliberal attacks.

> Poorer countries don't have as high a suicide rate

You have to be careful when comparing suicide rates across countries. They often don't count the same thing.

There is no room for Homo Sapiens under neoliberalism, only Homo Oeconomicus.


I think we're all searching for happiness. While I still haven't found what it is for me personally, I think we're all looking in the wrong place.

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