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Better Together

Mike Drak, 2:11 pm ET

I’VE LONG STRUGGLED with the fact that, despite living in one of the world’s richest nations and having the best medical care in the world, Americans have a shorter average life expectancy than the citizens of 30 other developed nations.

I believe it all comes down to the high level of stress that Americans carry, much of it caused by economic hardship. Far too many Americans, both young and old, live paycheck to paycheck. That can feel helpless and uncertain. It’s stressful to have too much debt or to lack the savings needed to meet everyday needs.

Out of necessity, Americans are returning to intergenerational living. According to Pew Reseach Center, 16.1% of Americans lived in multigenerational households as of 2008—and the long-term trend has been up. That’s one in six American households where there are adults from at least two generations or where there’s a grandparent living with a grandchild.

Living together and supporting each other makes good economic sense. It’s cheaper to run one household than two.

There are also emotional benefits, especially for working parents. Stress levels can be greatly reduced if you no longer have to pay for daycare, find babysitters or arrange for summer camps. On top of that, it’s comforting to know there will always be someone to meet the kids at the school-bus stop, and maybe also a hot meal waiting on the table after a long day at work.

You can see that I’m a big fan of multigenerational living. And it comes with the added benefit of bringing families closer together.

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Evan Yeigh
Evan Yeigh
2 months ago

It would be delusional to not think the short life expectancy of americans is not due to obesity. Almost 50% of americans are obese. But I agree with idea of multigenerational household decreasing stress.

Mike Drak
Mike Drak
2 months ago
Reply to  Evan Yeigh

I agree that obesity plays a large role but there are many other stressors at work here financial security, job security, lack of hope for the future etc.

Jim Wasserman
Jim Wasserman
2 months ago

Absolutely agree. There are so many upsides to multi-generational cohabitation. It helps the elderly to still feel value and connection, it helps the parents with extra eyes and hands with the kids, and the children learn traditions and lore from the entire family. Having lived in Spain, it is wonderful to see the symbiotic relationship of a family unit. One also learns that around 10;00 am, the abuelas all flood the food markets to shop for the family and one had best not get in their way!

Mike Drak
Mike Drak
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim Wasserman

I love visiting Spain and Italy where you get to see multi-generational living in action. People seem happier there and when I visit I feel happier as well. Love how they shop fresh everyday at the food markets and most people despite their age walk there.

parkslope
parkslope
2 months ago

My son and daughter-in-law have lived in a multigenerational family since his mother-in-law moved in with them seven years ago. While their arrangement provides many emotional benefits, they recently had to pay a premium price for a house with an in-law suite. Their real estate agent told them that the housing shortage is even more acute for houses designed for multigenerational families than it is for other living arrangements.

Mike Drak
Mike Drak
2 months ago
Reply to  parkslope

The good news is developers are waking up to the need for this type of housing and are now designing houses with intergenerational living in mind. I might be doing something similar to what your son and daughter-in-law are doing in the not too distant future. It just feels like the right thing to do.

Piper
Piper
2 months ago

Check out a book from your library called The Broken Ladder. The author makes some very good assessment about income inequality and it’s affect on our thinking, politics, and our longevity. I read it twice and then decided to buy it.

Mike Drak
Mike Drak
2 months ago
Reply to  Piper

Thank you I will do that. There is a huge retirement crisis coming our way!

Matt Ullery
Matt Ullery
2 months ago

While I certainly think the stress of living paycheck to paycheck does shorten one’s life expectancy, don’t forget that the US has the highest obesity rate of all OECD countries at 36.2% as of 2016.

Randy Dobkin
Randy Dobkin
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Ullery

Yes, I’m sure the standard American diet (SAD) has a lot to do with it.

Mike Drak
Mike Drak
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Ullery

Stress might be partly to blame for the high obesity rate. When I get stressed I eat more than I should.

jerry pinkard
jerry pinkard
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike Drak

Obesity has to be a major factor. Also, lifestyle, drug overdoses and murder. We have great healthcare, but many people do not have access to it. I spent 2 weeks in Italy in 2015. One week in a small Tuscany town and another in Rome. I was struck by how much walking people did. Many Americans get virtually no exercise which is a big factor in their health. Stress is part of it too but may be harder to measure.

Mike Drak
Mike Drak
2 months ago
Reply to  jerry pinkard

How about the term “deaths of despair” how sad is that? I love visiting Italy and the people there enjoy much lower levels of stress. I believe intergenerational living has a lot to do with it. You are right about the walking part and most of it seems to always be uphill.

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