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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Rise In Mortality Among Middle Aged Whites

In advanced nations, such as the United States, people typically live longer than ever before - the direct result of advances in medicine and more health conscientious attitudes, especially towards tobacco use. However, in the U.S., statistics are painting a picture than should not be expected for a major western nation. A recent review of statistics shows that since 1999, many white middle-aged Americans are dying at a higher rate, The Washington Post reports.

Interestingly, 1999 was the year arguably considered to be the beginning of the opioid epidemic in America. The rise in mortality for any large demographic in a major country is practically unprecedented, according to the article. The only other time something like this has been seen in modern times was in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Causes for the increase of white middle aged men and women living shorter lives between 1999 and 2013, according to researchers, include:
  • Legal and Illegal Drug Use
  • Alcohol Use
  • Suicide
“Drugs and alcohol, and suicide. . .are clearly the proximate cause,” said Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel laureate in economics, who co-authored the paper with his wife, Anne Case. “Half a million people are dead who should not be dead,” he added. “About 40 times the Ebola stats. You’re getting up there with HIV-AIDS.” 

David Weir, the director of the health and retirement study at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, points out that while African Americans in the same age group still have a higher death rate than whites, the findings are startling considering that white Americans typically have more advantages. Weir points out that there are a number of factors at work (on top of the one’s pointed out by the authors) with the rise in middle aged white mortality rates, the article reports. The factors include:
  • Economic Insecurity
  • Community Decay
  • The Breakdown of Families
  • The National Opioid Epidemic
The paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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