The economic recession has hit men particularly hard, and it’s causing some severe effects on their health. Jed Diamond tells us how we can help.
We keep hearing from the government that the economy is now improving and we are back on a path of continued growth. But not everyone agrees. Billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump believes the economy is still in trouble. “Unemployment is amazingly high. The real number is probably 17 or 18 percent,” he says. “It’s very, very high, and dangerously so.”
Richard Heinberg, a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, agrees that the economy is not bouncing back and proposes a startling diagnosis. “Humanity has reached a fundamental turning point in its economic history,” he says. “The expansionary trajectory of industrial civilization is colliding with non-negotiable natural limits. We have hit the end of growth.”
Heinberg concludes, “There is no recovery. It’s all been financed on increased debt. We’ve mortgaged our grandchildren’s future, but the game is up. We’ve reached the end of economic growth as we’ve known it.” This reality is a tough pill to swallow for everyone. But men, who were raised on the belief that it is our job to “bring home the bacon,” are being hit particularly hard.
Suicide is an extreme indicator of the despair people feel about their lives and their hope for the future. A new study published in the prestigious British Medical Journal looks at the impact of the economic crisis that began in 2008 and is continuing for people in countries throughout the world. They studied unemployment and suicide rate increases in 54 countries, including the U.S. According to the study, the 2008 economic crisis has had a far reaching impact on people in countries throughout the world.
Turmoil in the banking sector led to downturns in stock markets, bankruptcies, housing repossessions, and rises in unemployment. The International Labor Organization estimated that the number of jobless worldwide reached about 212 million in 2009, an increase of 34 million compared with 2007. The study found that unemployment rates started rising in North American countries in 2008 (23%), followed by dramatic increases in 2009-10 (94% and 101%).
The Economic Crisis Causing Increased Suicide Rate, Particularly Among Men
It is estimated that the 1997 economic crisis in Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong resulted in over 10,000 excess suicides. Previous research has found that economic downturns tend to have the greatest effects on men of working age. Rises in suicide were larger in men than in women and in adults of working age than older people during the Russian economic crisis in the early 1990s and the 1997 Asian economic crisis.
This trend continues in the present economic crisis. There were an estimated 4,884 excess suicides in 2009 alone compared with the number expected based on previous trends between 2000 and 2007. The increases in suicide mainly occurred in men in the 27 European countries and 18 countries of the Americas in including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and in Central and South America. For women, there was no change in European countries and a slight increase for women in the Americas. Rises in European men were highest in those aged 15-24, while in American countries men aged 45-64 showed the largest increase. Rises in national suicide rates in men seemed to be associated with the magnitude of increases in unemployment, particularly in countries with low levels of unemployment before the crisis.
What’s a Man To Do?
Although unemployment impacts males and females alike, it seems to have a particularly devastating effect on men. We suffer from many stress-related illnesses, everything from Attention Deficit Disorder to Erectile Dysfunction. We also live sicker and die sooner. But we need not despair. We can deal more effectively with stress and we can change our views about ourselves and the economy:
1. Recognize That Unemployment is Not Our Fault
Men tend to feel that it is our job to have a job and if we don’t have one or we are under-employed, we must be to blame. But when the world economy is in trouble and the whole planet is reaching the end of growth, we need to recognize the problem is systemic, not personal.
2. “Bread-Winner” is No Longer Our Main Role
Many of us grew up believing that being a man meant being a man with a good job to support himself and his family. But there was always more to being a man than having a good job and that is even truer today. We need to focus on other important male roles including being a loving spouse, father, friend, and community member.
3. Support Economic Localization
The Wall-Street dominated economy may be tanking, but local economies are finding ways to be sustainable and profitable. The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, BALLE [bawl-EE], focuses on creating real prosperity by connecting leaders, spreading solutions that work, and driving investment toward local economies. Our Willits Chamber of Commerce was one of the first to join.
4. Build Stress Relief into Your Life
Stress is becoming an increasing part of modern life. Through most of human history we dealt with stress through fight or flight. Now, we eat more, move less, and stew in our own juices. If we’re going to survive and thrive we have to do things every day that relieve stress. We have to eat healthy, deal with our fears, and focus more on friends and family.
5. Reconnect with the Gifts We Have to Offer
We all have great gifts to share with our family, friends, and community. These gifts go way beyond our jobs. Charles Eisenstein reminds us that for most of human history we lived in a gift economy, not a market economy. As markets shifts, we will return to these economic roots. In his recent book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible he says, “We are all connected, and our small, personal choices bear unsuspected transformational power. By fully embracing and practicing this principle of interconnectedness—called interbeing—we become more effective agents of change and have a stronger positive influence on the world.”