Princeton University's Anne Case and Angus Deaton write, "As a result more men lose regular contact with their children, which is bad for them, and bad for the children.” The researchers believe "these 'slow-acting and cumulative social forces' seem the best explanation for the rise in death rates. Because the causes are so deep-seated, they will (at best) 'take many years to reverse'."
Samuelson says that's not the whole story. "But even if their theory survives scholarly scrutiny, it’s incomplete," he writes. "It misses the peculiarly American aspect of this story. The proper question may be: Is the American Dream killing us? American culture emphasizes striving for and achieving economic success. In practice, realizing the American Dream is the standard of success, vague though it is. It surely includes home ownership, modest financial and job security, and a bright outlook for our children."
Samuelson concludes, "When striving accomplishes these goals, it strengthens a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. But when the striving falters and fails—when the American Dream becomes unattainable—it’s a judgment on our lives. By our late 40s or 50s, the reckoning is on us. It’s harder to do then what we might have done earlier. We become hostage to unrealized hopes. More Americans are now in this precarious position. Our obsession with the American Dream measures our ambition—and anger."