White millennials are often portrayed as privileged, hipsters, who float between careers, fitness trends, and progressive politics. There’s very little sympathy in popular culture for white millennials, but there should be.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg is the latest outlet to report that white millennials, especially those without college degrees, are suffering from a crisis of despair.
It’s been well documented that middle-aged white Americans are dying at a disproportionate rate due to a high misery index. No single demographic has been this heavily affected by a crisis since the AIDS epidemic hit black Americans in the 1980s and 90s.
White Baby Boomers aren’t the only ones though. White millennials are catching up with their parents’ generation.
Facing a lack of opportunities, a growing dependency on opioids, halt in wage growth, destruction of civic community including marriage, religion, and union membership, and a culture that attacks whites for their alleged privilege. This class of poorer millennials are simply opting out of their future.
Anne Case, a Princeton economist who identified the “deaths of despair,” told Bloomberg that white millennials’ facing this crisis might soon be dying at higher rates than even Baby Boomers.
Americans aged 25-to-34 are committing suicide at much higher rates than they did nearly two decades ago. Alcohol-related deaths doubled since 1999, and according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 25- to 34-year-olds make up the biggest share of opioid overdoses.
The Daily Beast reported back in January 2016 that the largest group driving up opioid, especially heroin, addiction is white millennials.
So young white millennials change course and prevent their generation from enduring the same fate as their parents is yet to be seen.
Both public and private institutions are trying to deal with the growing addiction to opioid. Safe Injection Facilities are trying to help heroin addicts avoid dirty needles and overdoses while President Trump has created a task force led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Jared Kushner to look at solutions for the growing the drug epidemic.
Other than that, there has to be a simple change in the way culture views white millennials or they will end up just like their parents falling into patterns of despair, drugs, and death. They all don’t act like Spencer Pratt on The Hills, and they don’t deserve to just be a punchline about privilege from unfunny comics like Trevor Noah or Samantha Bee.
This crisis of despair needs to tackled, not silenced or ridiculed because it’s become endemic in certain regions of the country.