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More U.S. Adults Show Signs of Despair As They Enter Middle Age

Pattern generalized across races, education levels, geography

THURSDAY, May 16, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Indicators of despair are rising among U.S. adults entering midlife, according to a study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Lauren Gaydosh, Ph.D., from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and colleagues used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health to assess levels of despair among U.S. adults as they approach midlife. Analysis was restricted to individuals who participated in at least one of five waves of the survey (1994 to 2017) and self-identified as non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, or Hispanic (18,446 individuals).

The researchers found evidence of rising despair among this group over the past decade. This increase in despair during the 30s was not limited to low-educated whites or to rural areas. It is generalized, regardless of race, ethnicity, education, and geography. Specific measures of despair that are increasing include suicidal ideation, depressive symptoms, marijuana use, and heavy drinking.

“Our results indicate that patterns of despair potentially underlying increased midlife mortality are not restricted to low-educated whites and caution against an overemphasis on this single demographic group,” the authors write.

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