As men “lost touch with the tangible reality of the material world,” and became cut off from nature and “glutted with convenience,” the energy and effort of living increasingly moved away from grappling with externalities and into the interior of their heads.
To look at various metrics of physical and mental health in the world today is to observe a rather gloomy picture.
Life expectancy in the United States, which tends to consistently edge upwards, fell this year. It was the first such decline in over two decades, the last being due to the rise of the AIDS epidemic.
The effects of obesity played a role, but part of the decline is also the result of a striking rise in deaths due to drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, and suicide.
One in six Americans has taken at least one psychiatric drug, usually for depression or anxiety. And the suicide rate in the U.S. has reached its highest level in 30 years. It rose by 24% between 1999 and 2014, and has been accelerating since 2006, doubling the annual increases common 16 years ago. This surge in suicides has cut across nearly every age group, with the highest jump for men — an alarming 43% — found amongst those aged 45-64.
Overdoses, both from illegal and prescription drugs, have risen sharply, especially for white Americans. It’s tripled for those 35-44 in this population and hit those 25-34 even harder — going up five times over. As one report on these sobering statistics notes, “The rising death rates for those young white adults…make them the first generation since the Vietnam War years of the mid-1960s to experience higher death rates in early adulthood than the generation that preceded it.”
Related to this uptick in substance abuse and suicide is a rise in perceived mental and physical troubles; middle-age white Americans have become increasingly likely to report pain, mental illness, struggles with socializing, and difficulty walking a quarter mile or up a flight of stairs.
Such issues extend beyond whites, and beyond American shores, however.