Why are more middle-aged white women committing suicide?

Posted by: Michelle Conlin on October 21, 2008

suicide woman.bmp

I woke early Monday morning for a 7:30 a.m. breakfast at one of my all-time favorites: the St. Regis Hotel.

My guest was management rock star Marcus Buckinham, the bestselling author whose new book, The Truth About You, is out now.

The breakfast was disturbing. And not only because I violated recession 101 by putting $90 on my expense account. (Spend the company’s money as if it were your own.)

What was more sickening was hearing about the new book Marcus is working on. It is attempting to grapple with this question: why are professional women with children getting sadder and sicker over their lifetimes? Marcus’s research and stats are fascinating.

Then today I saw this article about the astonishing rise of suicides in middle-aged white women.

Readers: Why do you think this is happening?

Reader Comments

Paula Smith

October 24, 2008 1:51 AM

This is a great question to pitch to a cultural anthropologist. I'm not that expert. But I fancy myself an armchair cultural anthropologist, so take my comments with a grain of salt.

When I was a very young single mum, I got to spend a lot of time with my kid. I didn't have much money, but hey, I had enough to make ends meet. I made realistic wages. So unlike today's single mums, many who must juggle several underpaying McJobs to stay financially afloat, I made just enough money that enabled me to spend "quality time" with my kid. I raised him properly. That, plus I had help from my son's father's father (my kids father was brain injured about the time I got pregnant). In retrospect, support from a younger grandfather was a real big deal.

After I raised my kid, and he was finally a teenager and doing his "own thing," I got smart and got myself an education and became a "professional".

Want the truth? I was an oddball among my professional peers. Most of my peers were in their mid to late 20s. I was in my late 30s. I felt like a freak. Felt out of step.

And like me, these driven young women were incredibly busy and focused on getting their careers established. But unlike me, they were also pushing "motherhood" off into their 30s, even their 40s.

Then they started having babies.

I was aghast! As a former young mum, I knew the energy that raising my kid demanded. That's when I realized, that I was a damn "lucky freak". I had that youthful pluck and energy to raise a toddler to functional adulthood.

I was in my late 40s when my younger colleagues were starting to hear the biological "tick" and think "baby." I knew from experience, I didn't have the same energy levels at age 20. I felt sorry for these smart, typically 30 and 40 something, women.

I don't mean that women should not participate fully in the professions if they desire and aspire to do so. If you want the brass ring go for it. I did. I just lucked out and did it backwards. Had my kid young, then launched my career.

But now I'm nudging into my 50s, I can say without a doubt that raising my kid was the most rewarding thing I've done in my entire life. And I remember having energy doing it. More importantly, having just an OK job meant that I had a fairly carefree attitude towards work. I just punched out and could just leave it all behind. No stress, no deadlines. And there was grandpa!

Can most professional women who delay family do this? Can they just dump their hard earned careers to juggle family? Not to mention older (grand)parents who have long since moved to Florida? Can they do all this when their energy levels are lower? I just don't think so.

Wearing my arm chair cultural anthropologist hat, and examining all little tell tale "cultural artifacts" that reflect our skewed value system it becomes apparent that there's a reason why Fisher Price advertises toddlers toys at 10:00 p.m. Guilt purchasing dumped on poor old Mom's shoulders just before bed when she's dog tired after a hard time juggling her career and children -- not to mention the daycare center or nannies that have been taking her place.

Now that's a recipe for suicide, don't you think?

Martha Wright-Staggs

July 6, 2009 9:50 PM

Who the hell do you think you are telling everyone a 40 year woman doesn't have energy? Seriously.
Until you die you have energy. Until the breath comes out of you for the final time...you get back up and fight for you and yours...
And that is it.
You will be level by something.
hopefully not yourself.

Onefootouttathegrave

July 6, 2009 9:53 PM

Again
Suicide
though helpful,
at the time,
to only the person
leaving the planet
is left for everyone
else to pick up
the shitstorm you left for everyone
still leaving....
Hopefully you leave a note
so that the people living don't
have to come up with a reason for you.

Mikey

January 9, 2010 8:15 AM

I don't want to assume, I think this kind of situation can happen to any of us.
cheers,
Mikey @ Father of the bride speeches

Brandon

January 15, 2010 5:41 AM

I feel so sorry for them, I think the someone should come to them and give them more love.

Naruto frog purse

James Fried

January 17, 2010 11:03 AM

If I were a woman with a career and children, the only reason I would kill myself is because I can't afford my children living cost. So I guess they got depressed so heavily and couldn't bear it anymore and decided to take the fast track to end all the misery.

James F.
SAP tutorial

Khalid

January 28, 2010 10:52 AM

Giving every man and woman a reason to stay alive is always better than not. There's always a good reason to live. Those are the only reasons we should give. Showing sincere love/obedience to G-d is the greatest. If I could show love to every good hearted person I would. But I have a very special love to show to mature white women. They attract me the most especially the pale ones. I want to make life easier for so many of them. Faith and honesty is what I value most but they attract me most. I'm still single. Maybe a loving black guy is what they want. Well, here I am. Longing for you too. So much that I might have MWWS (Missing White Women Syndrome) more than the media. Times have changed so much so suddenly I understand. But please have spritual understanding. G-d is All-Understanding but the lack of material possession/comfort is such a poor reason for committing suicide. Enlightenment is what we need rather than materialism. Every man and woman needs physical love but most importantly moral support and spiritual values. My words you've heard them all before. It's only for the sacred love. Have more faith in love. Thus, there are many blessings to be thankful for. May G-d's Divine Help be with us all and Blessings be with the good.

Please remember: Freedom from sins is far more needed than freedom from physical or personal disagreements. Peace, love, and respect.

jsmorb

February 2, 2010 1:23 PM

White women age faster than non-white women because their white skin fails to protect them from sun damage. Due to accelerated sun-related aging relative to non-white women, white women become depressed when they are middle aged.

KATHY =( ^-^ )=

February 5, 2010 4:23 AM

Because when their husband dies,it is harder to get a man because men their age use money to get much younger women,and can have more kids (if they choose),and it builds their ego. Women(unless they are cougars ) Otherwise a middleaged woman (9especially if she is trying to get her adult kids out of the house),are not a catch. When you have values,and don't put yourself out their like a whore,you will be very lonely. But for women nowadays it can be dangerous. So I had cats when I my husband was alive (and he's the one who wanted us to get the cats along with us having kids) so I did not do it after he died. So I know that there are some men that like cats that are not "gay". It's just that they are taken,criminals,smokers.So that cuts down my prospects..I also have to have someone with some morals. At church men do not always wear a ring so that is a crap shooy. And as I mentioned before they are after the younger women,and only go in another direction if the woman might have a lot've money (but then that would be a cade). So I have not got out very much because I do not have acess to do things like others like money for a cruise,etc. So that's a deadend... Money does help to get out there.

KATHY =( ^-^ )=

February 5, 2010 4:26 AM

Because when their husband dies,it is harder to get a man because men their age use money to get much younger women,and can have more kids (if they choose),and it builds their ego. Women(unless they are cougars ) Otherwise a middleaged woman (9especially if she is trying to get her adult kids out of the house),are not a catch. When you have values,and don't put yourself out their like a whore,you will be very lonely. But for women nowadays it can be dangerous. So I had cats when I my husband was alive (and he's the one who wanted us to get the cats along with us having kids) so I did not do it after he died. So I know that there are some men that like cats that are not "gay". It's just that they are taken,criminals,smokers.So that cuts down my prospects..I also have to have someone with some morals. At church men do not always wear a ring so that is a crap shooy. And as I mentioned before they are after the younger women,and only go in another direction if the woman might have a lot've money (but then that would be a cade). So I have not got out very much because I do not have acess to do things like others like money for a cruise,etc. So that's a deadend... Money does help to get out there.

dude

February 22, 2010 5:16 AM

Because they make better decisions when they are mature and middle aged...

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