NEW YORK (MainStreet) The passing of Robin Williams has been a kick in the gut to fans young and old. Those who grew up, or grew older, with him are feeling a sense of nostalgia and perhaps a fresh twinge of mortality. Reports of Williams's battle with severe depression may come as little surprise to those who study the emotional effects of aging among Americans.
Claude Fischer, a professor of sociology at UC Berkeley has written about this phenomenon more than once. In a post on the Berkeley Blog last year, he said Baby Boomers tend to carry with them "the consequences of sharing a distinctive historical moment" -- the social turmoil of the '60s.
"It appears that Americans especially the men born between roughly 1948 and 1960 have had a particularly hard time during their youth, or during their later adulthood, or during both with respect to drugs, marital problems, crime and unhappiness," Fischer wrote. "On suicide, in particular, some research suggests that the experience of crowding -- so many people, especially men, trying to squeeze through the same school doors and the same job openings in the same few years -- had lasting depressive effects ending in elevated rates of suicide even decades later."
Fischer says as Baby Boomers grow older, they may be encountering financial difficulties, loneliness and increasing bouts of depression.
"There appears now to be a confluence of factors: the Baby Boomers are aging; an unusually high percentage of them had rocky youths that may still disturb them; some of them are now encountering the hard economic times of the Great Recession; and easy access to drugs on top of the easy access to guns is probably making those moments of despair too common and too easily acted upon," Fischer concluded.