The Top Stories in People’s Lives

Amid all the headline-making events of the past year, it’s easy to forget that the big occurrences in people’s lives tend to be the ones that happen close to home. A study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute offers a reminder of this.

One section of its poll of 45-74-year-olds (fielded last summer and fall) looked at some of the “trigger events” that significantly affect a person’s life. Twenty-one percent of respondents said they’d experienced the death of someone close to them during the year before being polled. Nearly as many, 17 percent, experienced the illness/disability of someone close to them.

Other events experienced by significant numbers of respondents included caregiving for an elderly relative (13 percent), problems with family relationships (13 percent), the birth/adoption of a grandchild (9 percent), a major unforeseen change in their health (9 percent), a new job (8 percent) or retirement (7 percent).

The many people who’ve recently experienced the death or near-death of someone close to them are likely to have a skeptical view of marketers who depict some trivial bit of consumer behavior as a life-and-death decision.