Could Rising Drug-Related Death Rates Be Economically Based?

According to the Brookings Institute, Princeton Professors Anne Case and Angus Deaton have recently followed up on their 2015 article, “Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st century.” Their findings indicate that midlife mortality rates are continuing to fall among all classes of educated persons in most of the rich countries in the world.

However, of middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the United States with a high school diploma, or those who have less of an education, are experiencing an increasing midlife death rates since the late 1990s. The premise behind their finding points to increases in the number of deaths of despair. Deaths of despair are those caused by drugs, alcohol and suicide. Another demographic increase is due to the lack of progress against mortality, due to heart disease and cancer, which are the two largest killers in middle age.

For white people in 1999, with no more than a high school degree, mortality rates were around 30 percent lower than that of black people. However, by 2015, the combined effects of deaths of despair, heart disease and cancer, indicate that white deaths had grown 30 percent higher than blacks. The professors found that deaths of despair were rising in parallel for both men and women without a high school degree. Also found were increasing deaths of despair in all parts of the U.S.: urban, suburban and rural.

The epidemic of deaths of despair, when the data was originally collected, was spread out in all geographic areas across the United States. In 2000, the epidemic was cornered in the southwest. In the mid 2000s, the geographic areas the epidemic spread to was Appalachia, Florida, and the west coast. By March 2017 it was all across the nation.

Case and Deaton document the accumulation of pain, distress, and social dysfunction in the lives of working class whites took hold as the blue-collar economic heyday of the early 1970s ended. The distress continued through the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent slow recovery.

Authors, Case and Deaton determined the increases in deaths of despair were in conjunction with a deterioration in economic and social well being, which is measurable. The increases have become more noticeable with each successive birth cohorts. Birth cohorts are a group of people born during a particular period or year.

“You’re going to make it; You’re going to be at peace; You’re going to create, and love, and laugh, and live; You’re going to do great things.”― Germany Kent

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