Depression (and suicide) have been increasing among middle-aged people since 1999.
We’ll take a look at the unique mental health challenges of midlife concerning depression and 5 steps to cope with sadness, anxiety, and loss.
Last month, both fashion designer Kate Spade, 55, and celebrity chef/travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain, 61, committed suicide by hanging. News spread via traditional and social media, igniting a conversation about depression during midlife.
5 Ways for Ageing Singles to Handle Depression in Midlife
The Center for Disease Control has reported a 30 percent increase in suicides in half of US states (1999 through 2015) and in 2016, close to 45,000 Americans died from suicide, which ranks among the top 10 causes of death in the U.S.
And the fastest growing demographic? Middle-aged Americans. Behavioral scientist Deborah Stone, who authored the CDC report noted the 45-64 age group makes up the largest proportion of the increase in suicides.
What’s driving this increase in suicide among midlife adults? And what can we do to cope with depression during midlife?
Licensed psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser, Editor-at-Large for Live Happy Magazine, says midlife is a time marked by many transitions, which may include changing relationships, such as divorce or loss of spouse, and for parents, less time spent with children. During midlife, many feel anxious about finances, aging, and unmet expectations.
Divorce and loss of a partner may increase these feelings, especially when the circumstances were unwanted or unplanned. “People are worried about the future; now, you’re not sure how you’re going to manage, which can cause a crisis,” explains Kaiser.
For the newly single, there may be anxieties about grey hairs, extra weight, and wrinkles if they consider re-entering the dating scene. “You’re not 20 anymore,’ says Kaiser. “You have aches and pains, less energy. It’s harder to lose weight and to keep it off. People have body image issues.”
The transitions of midlife are inevitable, as are feelings that may include anxieties about the future and sadness about changing circumstances, as well as depression. However, there are steps you can take to help you cope, says Kaiser.
- Support: Surround yourself with people who have been there and who are not critical but supportive of what you’re going through. Look for an online support group.
- Reconnect with Your Passion: If you’ve stopped doing what you once loved, pursue those interests. Find a few single friends in similar circumstances if you prefer not to explore on your own. Finances an issue? Look for activities that don’t cost too much. Pursue fun activities that once gave you pleasure to combat a crisis.
- Set Goals. These should be long- and short-term. You don’t have to go it alone. Consult with a financial planner or a fitness trainer. Make tweaks and adjustments so change are more comfortable. Spend quality time with your kids or friends.
- Glass Half-Full. Try not to be the face of doom and gloom. Focus on what is working and on your positive attributes. Spend time with friends who are less critical. If you need a boost, find a professional therapist or coach to help you.
- Face Your Feelings. Do give yourself time for an “ugly cry” or to release anger. Find someone you can trust. We spend lots of time trying to put on a happy face but it’s okay to be sad, angry, hurt, or scared.
Midlife, especially after significant changes like divorce or loss of a partner, can be challenging. Moving through transitions, coping with depression, as well as the stresses, sadness, and worries about the future can be easier if you find people to support you and reconnect with the activities that once made you happy.
Set goals, whether professional, financial, or fitness, and celebrate successes. Express gratitude for what’s going well in your life but don’t feel guilty about an occasional bout of sadness, fear, hurt, or anger.
Beth Cone Kramer is the author of the upcoming book “Digital Dating Detox.”