Have you noticed a few changes in yourself over the past four or five decades? Did you think it was just you? I found it very reassuring to know it wasn't.
I began to wonder what boomers share as a generation, so I read the research. Some of the findings in the book The Baby Boomers Grow Up actually astounded me. As I read more, I kept saying, "I didn't know that!"
For example, mental illness and drug addiction is far more common in boomers than their parents, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and substance disorders.
There are good reasons for this, the book argues. Since we were the largest generation in U.S. history, we experienced much more intense intergenerational competition for jobs and careers, especially among those born after 1954.
Add in periodic bad economic cycles like the energy crisis in the 1970s or the more recent "Great Recession," and you know why boomers have experienced greater job loss and unemployment than their parents. Lay-offs and firing can lead to increased levels of clinical depression, substance abuse and suicide. Trust me, I know.
We were also the first American generation to experience full-time, non-stop commercialism gone wild. Boomers grew up in a world inundated with constant manipulative advertising. We have gone from a few hours per day of black-and-white television when we were young to email and cell phones in the 1990s, to today's total-immersion, 24/7 world news and "infotainment" cycle. Flashing ads everywhere we turn!
Watching so many TV shows and ads created dissatisfaction with the mundaneness of our own lives. We were no longer comparing ourselves to "the Joneses" next door like our parents did, but instead aspiring to live the lives of the richest celebrities we saw on TV. Working more hours to become rich only led most of us to less leisure, less ability to deal well with the free time we did have and overall unhappiness about what we would never have.
Have you ever noticed a general feeling of alienation among boomers? Ever wonder why? Since WWII, we have experienced ever-increasing distrust in each other as well as less trust in our government. I believe this all started with the duck and cover campaign! This has led to a new emphasis on individualism and self-reliance. Since the good old days of WWII when just about everyone believed in our country and "the war effort," to the lows during the Vietnam War, we have been building a culture of isolation and alienation from each other.
Add to that ever-increasing divorce rates, social mobility, fewer community connections, lower religious participation and 24/7 coverage of crime, wars, natural disasters and environmental concerns worldwide, and you have a population of paranoids. And let us not forget boomers were born into the very real threat of nuclear war from day one. With more information and knowledge we grow ever more fearful, even as actual crime statistics have decreased over the decades.
Rising job/career loss concerns, which are becoming ever more common because of disability and age discrimination, too much information and major cultural shifts since WWII have affected us all, unless of course you live in a media-free bubble, in which case you probably aren't reading this anyway.
I was so amazed at the commonalities in boomer psychology, that I put together a summary of what I learned in my new book: Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search For Meaning In Midlife.
You are not alone. There are 77 million who think a lot like you do.
Learn more about who we are as a generation and where we came from. More importantly, find out about the new emotional revolution called midlife, which offers us a new rite of passage for the first time in human history.