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Suicide Is the 3rd Leading Health Issue of Generation Y in America

Patty Inglish has degrees in psychology and preventive medicine, with internships and research in health psychology and employee stress.

Suicide is on the rise in the U.S., and some demographics are disproportionately affected.

Suicide is on the rise in the U.S., and some demographics are disproportionately affected.

Suicide: The 3rd Leading Cause of Death

Suicide is on the rise in America—and it's not just the result of bullying. One of the most markedly affected age groups by suicide is Generation Y.

What Is Generation Y?

Various economic magazines and business analysts have estimated that 75% of the working population of America, and probably Canada, will be individuals in Generation Y by 2025. Following classic 20-year generation cohorts, these are people born from 1984-2005, although definitions wander up and down the years between 1980 and 2005, some being only 10-year cohorts. It is not understood why such a diversity of definitions exists.

In the year 2025, these potential workers of Gen Y will be ages 20 to 41. How many of them will still be alive? Suicide is the third leading cause of death among Gen Y, according to the CDC:

“America loses approximately 100 Americans every 24 hours from suicide,” said Pamela Hyde, administrator of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration...Among people 18 to 24, suicide is now the third leading cause of death, officials said."

According to statistics compiled by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in America, the top causes of death among men and women ages 15-24 and 25-44 are listed below. In the case of the younger cohort, most causes of death are violent:

  • Ages 15-24: Accidents, homicide, suicide, malignancies, heart disease.
  • Ages 25-44: Accidents, malignancies, heart disease, suicide, homicide. Analysts feel that violent deaths most often affect the lower end of this age rank.
An unemployment line in the USA, 1938

An unemployment line in the USA, 1938

People who have the highest risk of suicide are white men. At the same time, women and teens report more suicide attempts.

— Medline, American Medical Association

Military Personnel

News reports on ABC, NBC, and CBS on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy in the US reported that during the summer of 2012, suicides among US military personnel and those recently returned from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan had reached a rate of 1 every day, or 365 per year. Many of these suicides occur among personnel of Generation Y.

Further, the American Medical Association's MedLine reports that "People who have the highest risk of suicide are white men. At the same time, women and teens report more suicide attempts."

Alleged Characteristics of Gen Y or the Millennials

Looking at the headlines concerning this generation at the end of 2012 gives us some enlightenment about the Millennials:

  • "Generation Y: Looking for jobs — and an identity," by Alexandra Thomas at HLNTV. Main points: "1) Unemployment rate among people aged 20-24 was 13.5% in September 2012; 2) The identity of Gen Y is still a bit of a mystery. "Gen Y is often said to be spoiled, impatient, and "entitled", more so than any other generation. (Note: These individuals have grown up with technology and constant communication with friends via texting, email, SmartPhones, iPads, etc., and there may be a genetic basis for Internet Addiction among them. They are much more inclined to ask employers in job interviews with the company can do for them rather than what they can do for the company. However, they are big on volunteerism overall.)
  • "Gen Y most likely to hold low-paying jobs in retail." Hadley Malcolm says in USA Today: "The most common jobs held by Gen Y are merchandise display-person and sales representative, which they are about five times more likely to hold vs all workers."
  • "Is Generation Y Underemployed or Just Lazy?" By Kelly Clay, Forbes. " According to a recent study by Cisco, more than half of Gen Y workers “will not accept a job that bans social media...consider the Internet to be as important as air, water, food, and shelter and will choose a lower paying job in order to be able to use it."
  • "Is Home Ownership Dead for 20-Somethings?" Today's generation is shunning the American dream of past ones By Ethan Roberts, InvestorPlace Contributor
  • "The Cheapest Generation? Why Millennials aren’t buying cars or houses, and what that means for the economy," by Derek Thompson and Jordan Weissmann in The Atlantic. (Millenials, on average, would rather have a SmartPhone than a car if they need to choose.)
  • "Gen Z and Y prefer Debit to Credit" by Business with the Wall Street Journal in Australia.
  • "Is Gen Y responsible for elevated network risk?" by Charlie Osborne for iGeneration. QUOTE: Eight in ten professionals out of 1,500 surveyed at the TechEd North America and TechEd Europe conferences said that Generation Y was an obstacle in reducing application privileges for the sake of security. Within the age bracket, "young male staff between the ages of 20 and 35" were considered the biggest obstacle and most likely to demand elevated administrator rights. Almost 40 percent said they had experienced at least one malware incident due to an unapproved application being downloaded by staff.
  • "The Boom In Suicides - Government Addresses Suicides Without Looking at Suicide-Linked Drugs" by Martha Rosenburg for
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Read More From Toughnickel

Trophies and "Looking for jobs — and an identity," by Alexandra Thomas

Some analysts point out that Generation Y was the first generation to begin receiving awards across the board for everything and just for showing up to school. Some of these people have not been able to handle reasonable real-life job expectations and college requirements or the negative consequences of not meeting them --

Does this lead to increased suicide among them? Perhaps it does in some measure. However, bullying in childhood and youth - including cyberbullying in the first Internet-savvy generation - has been responsible for increasing numbers of suicides. Bullying does not end at a certain age threshold but is present in all age groups from preschool to old age home, as I found in studies my university group did in the mid-1990s, even before the Internet and current TV/film/gaming violence were widely accessible.

In the 2010s, war and military service make other contributors to suicide among Gen Y. All of these negative experiences taken together might result in increasing percentages of suicides annually. Substance abuse might be another contributor.

Individuals who served in the military are one of the groups heavily impacted by suicide.

Individuals who served in the military are one of the groups heavily impacted by suicide.

Causes of Suicide: Identity and Skills

An identity crisis may lead to thoughts of suicide, as does the lack of a job, especially if one gains one's identity from the work (e.g., the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers, especially men).

Generation Y has been hit hard with encouragement to study STEM courses (sciences, technologies, engineering, maths) and pursue math and science careers. Their Top 10 Highest Demand Jobs (see below) are largely in Engineering. They may be studying for degrees that they cannot use. Although the Aerospace Industry is growing, a proliferation of related new jobs will not occur until around 2014-2015 or later. What will all these engineers do until then?

Alexandra Thomas found that the Millennials, more than any previous generation, study Chinese and entrepreneurial studies, neuroscience, bioengineering, sports management, and digital media studies, while more also earn MBA degrees. Still, more men go into engineering than women. Simultaneously, funding cuts have hit the Nursing Programs around the USA, accessed more often by women than men. It looks like more Gen Y women will be more under- or unemployed than Gen Y men.

What Is Generation Y Really Doing for Work in the 2010s?

  • Computer Maintenance/Repair Techs
  • Display Merchandisers in Retail and Grocery, etc.
  • Retail Salespeople - Clothing and Cellular Phones.

Working in a job one considers below one's level of talent can be depressing. Working in a job in which one is skilled but hates leads to the worse burnout possible (I've been there).

Are the Media-Proposed Reasons for Suicide Among Gen Y Reasonable?

  1. Suicides resulting from the inability to find and/or keep a high-paying job for which Gen Y members trained. Portions of Gen Y are delaying purchasing homes and automobiles, as well as delaying marriage and children, because of lack of income. Some are moving home with parents of Gen X and the Boomers, which has become a frequent joke on late-night talk shows. High levels of education and plus low-paying jobs might become a depressing combination.
  2. Suicides because of Internet Addiction and withdrawal syndrome after losing connectivity as a result of income decline. This would be worst perhaps in cases where the user depended on the Internet and a Smartphone for producing a livelihood.
  3. Suicides of twenty-somethings, especially in the US military, under the influence of drugs whose side effects include suicidal thoughts and actions. Depression and confusion about what has happened during recent wars and life afterward on an individual experience level, plus the overuse of prescription drugs to control adverse psychological results in the field, make #3 a reasonable cause for suicide.

Top 10 High Demand, High Pay Jobs for Gen Y in 2013-2018 By

Jobs ranked by highest to lowest Annual Median Pay:

  1. Petroleum Engineer - $98,100
  2. Senior Software Engineer - $80,600
  3. Account Director - $76,200 (Large accounts with large sales.)
  4. IT Program Manager - $75,100
  5. Sales Director - $74,600
  6. Technical Architect - $73,000
  7. Quantitative Analyst - $72,800
  8. Hardware Design Engineer - $72,700
  9. Mining Engineer - $71,900
  10. Software Product Manager - $71,800

Most of these jobs are involved in Technologies and Sales.

MAYO CLINIC: How to Recognize and Address Suicide

Dealing With Potential Suicide

This article is not meant to be a diagnosis or treatment; if you or someone you know in North America seems to exhibit suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors, contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) in the USA and the Suicide or Crisis Hotline (1-800-448-3000) in Canada.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 19, 2012:

It's hard to tell what exact reasons are taking our young people's lives overall, but I hope we find out. Meanwhile, we pray.

haikutwinkle on October 19, 2012:

If young people can have more respect for the one life given to them so dearly by their mothers, would they have committed suicide?

What makes it so easy to give up on the one life that they have?

Perhaps the cause was the lack of respect for living or life...

Garifalia on September 15, 2012:

Agreed. Too many lives are lost on either sides.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 15, 2012:

Peanutritious - I think the reward-everyone system does everyone harm. Instead of helping kids find their proper calling to their talents, there are all these awards for nothing. It's like the film Harrison Bergeron, where it's a crime to think.

Real Housewife - I lost a friend last Aug. 18 to accidental overdose. He'd suffered many losses as well as having been a wounded Viet Nam veteran fighting for his benefits for 30 years. He was bound up by sadnesses.

Angela Blair - While not all parents are lax, I noticed in the 1980s that more kids ran unsupervised in the streets, in stores and restaurants, etc.

Garfalia - The film Stop Loss showed the plight of our soldiers in Iraq when, at the end of their deployment, our govt. would not let them go. Multiple deployments to war zones should end, imo.

cclitgirl - It is worrisome that so many make a living online now, because that income is lost when power is down. A hit to the national grid would be tragic. Your cue to stay with nature is great.

monica - I really do not know what you are saying.

Monica Ortega from Uncasville, Connecticut on September 14, 2012:

Good question Patty, but I believe you are doing it by that I mean exposure to the problems society faces through each generation. Unfortunately, I believe there are so many, many are bypassed by society being so caught up with depressive circumstances beyond our control. I guess you can't really pinpoint a cause for there are many. This is just my opinion, hope it helps in some way. Monica

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on September 13, 2012:

Excellent hub, Patty. I am right on the "cusp" of Gen Y, depending on how you look at it, or a late-blooming Gen X - I was born in 1979. In any case, this whole hub has me wondering. I'm with you - it begs the question: does war, work or wi-fi lead to depression or suicide. What a serious issue so many are facing. I love my technology, but I make sure I spend time away from it daily, sometimes for a couple days, to reconnect with nature.

Garifalia on September 13, 2012:

Very, very, very interesting. The question is will society and the nation policy makers take notice? The decisions the US makes and the trends it sets have a reverberating ripple on many a nation. And secondly will parents decide to be there for and guide their offspring?

Angela Blair from Central Texas on September 13, 2012:

It seems to me this group of folks was born into a generation without many guidelines -- everyone doing what they please and little or no expectations from the society in which they live as to anyone's behavior. With no goals and no direction -- and many times no faith in anyone or anything -- the future must look terribly bleak and foreboding -- or at least it surely would to me. Excellent Hub on a subject that definitely needs to be addressed. Best/Sis

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on September 13, 2012:

Patty thank you for addressing such an important topic - causes and help. I just lost a friend to suicide on July 11. I totally see some flags - that were there. My friend had lost a child (five years prior) she recently lost her job too. She had no hope for a future that held happiness. So many many what ifs.

I wish people could understand that it's a state of mind that can be changed. Wounds CAN and DO gets better when we learn to cope better. I wish people weren't so adverse to asking for help.

Up and everything but Funny.

Tara Carbery from Cheshire, UK on September 13, 2012:

You have given much food for thought. I have just written a hub about Male suicide in the UK. It seems that loss of jobs and not being able to afford a decent standard of living leads to feelings of disillusion. I found your point about 'receiving awards' even for turning up at school a very interesting one. When I was teaching, I felt the reward system was almost like bribery. Why should you be rewarded for just turning up to be educated when so many children do not have that opportunity? What is it teaching them about life, that the world owes them a living? Many young people seem to think just that. An excellent article. Voted up.

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