When’s the Worst Decade to Live Through This Pandemic?

Pick your age group.

Will Leitch

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This week, I spoke to Chuck Klosterman, author of the terrific new book The Nineties, about a variety of topics, from that our revisionism about that decade to how social media would have changed our experience of it to whether it is, in his words, “the last decade.” But the one question I keep rolling around in my brain is this one:

One of the things I’ve thought about a lot during the pandemic is wondering what if all this would have happened at different points in my life — when I was 20, when I was a new parent, when I was in middle school, when I was a baby. Having researched this world of the ’90s, what do you think it would have been like if this pandemic had happened then?

Klosterman’s answer is mostly about differently we experienced the pandemic today because of social media, which makes sense, but it’s the first part of the question that sticks with me. What if it had happened at different points in my life? The pandemic happened to hit when I was 44 years old, living in Athens, Georgia, with my wife and two children under the age of nine. But what if it had hit at different times? When I was in college? High school? When I was an old man?

It’s a fascinating question, and a fun one to tackle. Rather than go age-by-age, maybe we look at it through the prism of decades. Would it be better to go through this pandemic as a teenager? In your 30s? In your 50s? Let’s track it out. I think we’ll ignore age 80 and up, not because those people don’t count — they count a bunch! — but because the obvious increased health risk for them skews the discussion in a way that sort of breaks the curve. Let’s just assume the pandemic has been worst for people over the age of 80.

OK, so how about the rest of us?

Age in decades when the pandemic hit, ranked by badness.

  1. Sixties.
    Pros: You (likely) don’t have small children to raise and therefore don’t have to worry about destroying their young minds. You are not in the most at-risk age group, though you are close.
    Cons: You’re still at-risk, particularly if you’re in the back half of this decade. You’re at the age where, if you’re a grandparent, you’re a relatively new one, which means you might just barely…

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Will Leitch

Author of six books, including “How Lucky” and "The Time Has Come." NYMag/MLB.. Founder, Deadspin. https://williamfleitch.substack.com