Baby Boomers: Why are they so depressed?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Baby Boomers
Baby Boom expressed as a graph

WHAT IS THE BABY BOOM? This chart, based on national data from CDC.GOV shows the Baby Boomers in red. The vertical axis shows the number of births per thousand in the American population. The horizontal axis shows years from 1909 through the turn of the millennium. (NOTE: CLICK on the chart to examine it in a larger size.)

Baby Boomers—Americans born from 1946 to 1964—took the nation by storm. Confident and optimistic (some would say entitled), they saw the world as their oyster.

So why are Boomers so bummed out now? Boomers are more likely than members of any generation to say they are depressed, reports Gallup. Fourteen percent of boomers say they currently have or are being treated for depression. This is double the percentage of Millennials who report depression (7%).

Aging per se isn’t the explanation. Only 9% of members of the oldest generation (born 1900-1945) report depression. Generation X (born 1965 to 1979) comes in second place to Baby Boomers. About 11% of Gen Xers say they currently have depression or are being treated for it.

Gallup notes that depression rates are low for young Americans, rising slowly to peak in late middle age (ages 57-64), then slowly declining thereafter.

Have you—or someone close to you—suffered depression?
If so, is it related to our age in life?
Why are Boomers bummed out?

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The Perfect Gift: Does mindfulness matter?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series The Perfect Gift

Hands forming a heart shapeDo you wait until the last minute to decide what to buy for holiday gifts? Or, have you been thinking about it for months, carefully compiling your list of just the right gifts for just the right people?

The second approach requires mindfulness. I don’t mean the traditional Buddhist practice (though that might help). Rather, I’m referring to being thoughtful about gift giving.

“Being mindful about gift giving,” writes psychologist Marilyn Price-Mitchell, “means paying attention to the whys behind the gift, looking anew at how we give, and questioning preconceived or traditional ideas of giving. Being mindful requires us to reconsider what we think we know about giving and adapt in ways that match our family’s values.”

Price-Mitchell says we develop “giving identities” during childhood and adolescence. So, being mindful about gift giving as an adult means reflection and introspection about gift giving when we were young.

It also means being conscious to the giving identities we intentionally or unintentionally create in our children.

“Parents can help children and adolescents become more mindful about gift giving simply by encouraging them to think, voice their thoughts, and then act on them,” says Price-Mitchell. “Parents have ample opportunities to ask open-ended questions that engage children in conversations about giving.”

Are you a mindful gift giver?
What did gift giving mean when you were growing up?
What giving identities to you instill in your children?

Your viewpoint is important!

You can leave a comment below. Or, you can talk with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook or envelope-shaped email icons and asking friends to read this series with you. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them to spark discussion in your class or small group.

The Perfect Gift: Is it MONEY?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series The Perfect Gift

A Fistful of Cash

The hunt is on! With Black Thursday and Friday behind us, the holiday shopping season is in full swing. Are you looking for the perfect gift for each person on your list? What’s the perfect gift to give—or to receive?

Could it be cash?

We like to think of gift giving as an act of altruism, a freely given expression of affection and love toward another. But gift giving can be complicated. In every society, gift giving follows certain informal rules; we intuitively know these rules even if we can’t always articulate them.

These rules become starkly apparent when we give the wrong gift—or get the wrong gift.

Let’s start today with money, the ultimate arbiter of value. For some, money is the perfect gift. It takes all the guesswork out of the equation. No need to intuit what the other person really wants. It’s very simple: The receiver uses the money to purchase exactly what he or she wants. What can be more satisfying than that?

But giving or getting money isn’t always so satisfying. Gifts of money make economic sense in a cold rational way; but gifts are not rational in the economic sense. Gifts are more about our values and emotions. And gifts of money, like all gifts, follow a certain social code.

Did your grandparents ever give you a holiday gift of money? This use of money as a gift is socially acceptable. It’s OK for a grandparent to give gifts of money to a grandchild. But the other way around—a grandchild giving a gift of money to a grandparent—is a violation of the social code. This is true even if the grandparent could really use the money, and the grandchild is affluent.

How about a holiday gift of money—to your spouse or significant other? The social code here varies from couple to couple. Generally, a gift of money does not convey the love and thoughtfulness that a gift should convey, but I know couples where money is the perfect gift.

How about giving a gift of money—to your boss? This is clearly a violation of the social code. Giving a purchased gift, however, often is not.

Is “money” the perfect gift?

Would you be happy giving or getting a gift of money for the holidays?

What is your definition of “The Perfect Gift”?

Your viewpoint is important!

You can leave a comment below. Or, you can talk with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook or envelope-shaped email icons and asking friends to read this series with you. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them to spark discussion in your class or small group.

Prayer in School: What happens in a ‘Moment of Silence’?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Prayer in School
A MOMENT OF SILENCE often is used among men and women in public service as a way to honor the fallen. This photo from the USS Kearsarge, serving in the Persian Gulf, shows the ship’s personnel pausing in an annual moment of silence to remember victims of the “9/11” attacks. (Photo by U.S. Navy’s Ash Severe, released for public use.)

A MOMENT OF SILENCE often is used by men and women in public service as a way to honor the fallen. This photo from the USS Kearsarge, serving in the Persian Gulf, shows the ship’s personnel pausing in an annual moment of silence to remember victims of the “9/11” attacks. (Photo by U.S. Navy’s Ash Severe, released for public use.)

Have you participated in a Moment of Silence? Often, Moments of Silence are expressions of remembrance and respect for those who have died or used to commemorate a tragedy. These are common occurrences in schools.

If a student cares to pray during a Moment of Silence, is it permissible?

This week, we’ve considered various angles on what is still a contentious issue in America: prayers in school. As a new Pew survey reports, a majority of Americans still support prayers in school. We’ve considered prayers at graduation ceremonies, writing about prayers or other religious themes in a term paper, and “See You at the Pole” prayer events.

Today, we consider the Moment of Silence. The theme this week is neutrality. School officials cannot officially encourage or discourage religious expression at schools. If students—on their own—choose to pray, they can do so as an expression of religious freedom.

The Moment of Silence is one of many issues covered the Department of Education’s guidelines. These guidelines state:

“If a school has a ‘minute of silence’ or other quiet periods during the school day, students are free to pray silently, or not to pray, during these periods of time. Teachers and other school employees may neither encourage nor discourage students from praying during such time periods.”

Back in the 1990s, Colin Powell, who was thinking about running for the White House, famously said that he didn’t favor prayer in public schools but he did favor a Moment of Silence.

Critics of the Moment of Silence contend that it is just a sneaky way to slip prayers into the school day.

So, what do you think happens in a Moment of Silence?
Have you participated in one?
If so, did you pray?

Free Agent Nation: Scented Jeans? ‘Ficks’ a hangover? High-tech bookmark?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Free Agent Nation

Fragrance Jeans

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER—This week, we’re spanning generations and perspectives in welcoming guest writers Kathy Macdonald and Miles Grofsorean. In this five-part series, they are reporting on some very creative ideas from entrepreneurs. Here is their third column …

America isn’t the only Free Agent Nation, and today we’re taking you on a quick trip around the world to show you three more products we’d like you to rate—and tell friends (via the blue-“f” Facebook icons or envelope-shaped email icons) if you think these ideas are worth sharing.

Yesterday, we looked at Serviceable ideas. Today, we focus on the second “S”—Seductive ideas.


Portuguese fashion brand, Salsa, has created scented jeans.

The pants, made from a blend of cotton and elastane, are embedded with microcapsules of fragrance. According to the manufacturers’ sales pitch, many jean enthusiasts believe that jeans are best left unwashed to protect their style and texture. Obviously, this can lead to undesirable side effects, which prompted Salsa to develop the product. They claim their fragrances will last up to 20 washes, and you can choose from 5 different scents: apple, blueberry, strawberry, lemon and orange.


Ficks Cocktail fortifierIf scented jeans are designed to keep young people smelling sweet even if they socialize night after night—a California company has created Ficks to take care of another problem associated with too much partying.

It’s a hangover solution, an “all natural cocktail fortifier” that was created in tandem with Fortitech, the company that formulated Vitamin Water. Their products are based on “years of research on scientific studies related to alcohol metabolization, liver health and medical causes of hangovers.”

Even Amazon now sells Ficks and so far the six reviews posted on the product page are voting 2 to 1 in favor of Ficks. There are four 4- and 5-star reviews vs. only two 1- and 2-star reviews; no one is wishy washy about this one—not a single 3-star review.


Dancing the night away? Worried about hangovers? Well, millions of people aren’t tempted in either direction. In fact, a Brazilian company is launching a small high-tech device that encourages—more reading.

Tweet For a Read is a campaign launched by a Brazil-based Penguin-Companhia publishing house. They recently developed a computerized bookmark with a WiFi-enabled computer, timer and light sensor. When the book is closed, the light sensor sets off the timer. When it’s been too long since you last opened the book, the bookmark (which is linked to your Twitter account) will notify the author’s Twitter account, which in turn will send you a reminder to continue reading the book in question. The tweets are actually pre-written by the author, or are phrases taken from the book you’re reading.

Here’s a short video about this product:

PENGUIN BOOKS | Case Tweet For a Read from Rafael Gonzaga on Vimeo.

Like this idea? Will it succeed? You could help to insure its success simply by telling friends.

PLEASE, leave a comment below—and share this series with friends by clicking on the blue “f” Facebook icons or the small envelope shaped email icons.

Change of Heart: The real crisis churches face.

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Change of Heart

Click on this chart to read the entire 2014 report from the Public Religion Research Institute.

Christian leaders defending a traditional ban on homosexuality often say that the future of the church is threatened by any softening of the anti-gay wall that encircles thousands of American churches. But leading researchers—including a self-proclaimed supporter of evangelical Christianity, George Barna—say the real crisis is the widespread impression among millions of young adults that churches are hateful organizations persecuting their gay and lesbian friends and relatives.

The most helpful chart displaying these findings, at a glance, comes from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), a highly respected center for research on religion in America. The chart appears, above, and you also can visit PRRI’s website to read the entire report. But evangelicals tend to discount such polling as irrelevant.

From the heart of the American evangelical community, though, comes the work of pollster George Barna, who is such a strong supporter of this faith group that he describes his work as “facilitating a spiritual and moral revolution.” By all accounts, his Barna Group research follows accepted standards for polling but the signature style in Barna’s columns and books is interpreting the news from an evangelical perspective.

That’s why it was so startling in 2009 to read about Barna’s research, after interviewing a sample group of homosexuals that “27 percent met the ‘born again’ criteria we use.” That finding may not be “startling” to most readers—but it was explosive news to Barna’s evangelical base. In fact, Barna says now that he was shocked by the response from his audience.

In 2010, Barna wrote, “The reaction to that finding was shockingly hateful–not everyone who wrote to or called us responded in that manner, of course, but an amazingly large share of the notes that came in were venomous. A number of emails questioned my faith and salvation. Several outright condemned me and denied the possibility that I am a follower of Christ. I am used to being challenged and am comfortable with debates about how we apply our faith, but the hostility quotient broke the meter after that release.”

He concluded, “After that experience it has been much easier for me to understand the distaste so many gays have for the Christian body – and why so many young adults who are not gay have gone to great lengths to distance themselves from the conservative Christian juggernaut.”

For more than a decade, Barna has been studying trends in Christian attitudes toward what Barna now calls “LGBTQ Rights.” In Barna’s latest overall report on these trends, in 2013, the polling firm concludes that American Christianity is nearing a historic tipping point. The group Barna calls “Practicing Christians under 40” has moved significantly toward favoring “changing laws to enable more freedom for the LGBTQ community” from 34 percent in 2003 to 46 percent in 2013. Lagging behind them are “Practicing Christians over 40,” who have moved from 23 percent approval across the decade to 32 percent approval in 2013.

Barna now regularly warns church leaders that anti-gay attitudes are hurting Christianity in America.

What do you think of George Barna’s experience?

Do you agree with these findings and Barna’s warning to churches?

Change of Heart: Who is teaching Americans about gay marriage?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Change of Heart

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia on magazine covers“She has been out for so long that it is no longer an issue—and older white women feel comfortable with her show. She normalizes LGBT people.” That’s one way a Pew research report summarizes Ellen DeGeneres’s influence across America.

Legalization of same-sex marriage seems inevitable, large majorities of Americans say in recent polls. This interactive map provided by Pew shows how big clusters of states that have legalized gay marriage are pressing across the U.S. from East and West coasts and the Midwest in mid 2014. But, you can re-set the Pew map to show the status in earlier years. Flip the date back to 2002 and you’ll see: Not one state allowed same-sex marriage.

Americans have had to adjust to this change at lightening speed. Research and media reports conclude: America’s most reliable, friendly, funny guide through this era of cultural change is—Ellen.

There’s no question that Ellen is the most famous gay American, Pew concludes in one study. Since she came out in 1997, Americans have watched her fall in love, mature in her relationships and get married to her partner Portia. Magazine cover stories and TV celebrity shows also have shown Ellen stumbling, problems arise in her marriage—and, this week, on the cover of Closer magazine Americans are watching them come through marriage counseling to renew their vows.

Pew concludes: “More than anyone else, Ellen DeGeneres is the face of LGBT America. Still. That’s the verdict of two new Pew Research Center surveys, one of the general U.S. population and the other of LGBT Americans specifically.

“Not only was the comedian and television host by far the most frequently cited example of a gay or lesbian public figure in the general-population survey, she and President Obama were the leaders when LGBT Americans were asked to name a well-known figure who’s been important in advancing the rights of LGBT people.”

When Ellen first came out, the public backlash reportedly sent her deep into depression for a time. But the multi-talented star quickly recovered. Today, she ranks No. 46 on the new Forbes list of the world’s most powerful women. She also ranks No. 17 on Forbes’s list of “richest women in entertainment.”

Forbes reports: “Daytime’s most likable TV personality—at least according to industry-standard Q scores—keeps dancing her way up our list. She managed to set two records within 24 hours this year: first, the now-famous ‘selfie’ photo she took with a handful of A-list celebs as she hosted the Oscars became the most re-tweeted Twitter post in history—a record previously held by President Obama. The live post-Oscars episode of her popular syndicated talk show the following day became the most-watched in the program’s 11 years on air. Aside from the ratings success of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the 56-year-old CoverGirl is beefing up her producing roster. Her production company is working on pilots for the CW and NBC, and cable network HGTV will air a DeGeneres-produced design competition series next year.”

So, what do you think of Ellen?

Are there other important men or women who’ve taught you about gay relationships?