Death Rate Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans
The death rate for middle-aged white Americans is rising at a startling rate, compared to all other age groups, ethnic groups, races, and peers in other countries. And the cause appears to be not heart disease or diabetes, but suicide and substance abuse, particularly overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids and alcoholic liver disease.
That's the finding of a study by two Princeton economists, Angus Deaton and Anne Case, based on analysis of health and mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from other sources from 1999 to 2014.
They found that the mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014. In contrast, the death rate for middle-aged blacks and Hispanics continued to decline during the same period, as did death rates for younger and older people of all races and ethnic groups.
The researchers are unclear why only middle-aged whites had such a rise in their mortality rates. Possible explanations include a pronounced racial difference in the prescription of opioid drugs and their misuse, and a more pessimistic outlook among whites about their financial futures. This group also reported more instances of chronic pain than any other age group -- those with the least education reported the most pain and the worst general health.
Lead researcher, Dr. Deaton, said he has seen a comparable epidemic like this during modern times only with HIV/AIDS.