The death rates for middle-aged whites in America is increasing, reversing a decades-long decline, says a new released analysis of national statistics.
So many middle-aged whites are succumbing to drug overdoses and are ending their lives in suicide that the numbers are high enough to reverse decades of falling death-rates, according to the study by a husband-and-wife team of Princeton economists.
The cause in the rise in drug deaths and suicides remains unclear, but it is likely a result of the downwardly spiraling economy and troubled job market in which millions of Americans are trapped, according to Angus Deaton, a professor of economics at Princeton University, and his wife, Anne Case.
Deaton’s work revealed that since the 1970s the death-rate for middle-aged whites has been declining at about 2 percent per year. But for 2013–the last year for which statistics are available–the death rates for that sector increased by half a percent for the first time.
The rates, Deaton said, caused the pair to start “falling off our chairs because of what we found.”
NPR reported that the “mortality rate among whites ages 45 to 54 had increased by a half-percent a year from 381.5 per 100,000 in 1999 to 415.4 in 2013.”
Deaton and Case calculated that during this uptick in deaths, 488,500 Americans had died that wouldn’t have if the 2 percent downward trend had continued.
The researchers also found that this downward trend is not being repeated in similar groups in other countries. Only whites in the U.S. are dying at an increased rate.
It also seems that the deaths are increasing for those with lower levels of education.
“Those are the people who have really been hammered by the long-term economic malaise,” Deaton says in his report. “Their wages in real terms have been going down. So they get into middle age having their expectations just not met at all.”
“One possible explanation is that for whites, their parents had done better economically and they had been doing pretty well. Then all of a sudden the financial floor dropped out from underneath them,” says Jon Skinner, a professor of economic and medicine at Dartmouth College, adds in the study. “For African-American and Hispanic households things had never been that optimistic and so perhaps the shock wasn’t quite as great.”
As to the stagnant job market that researchers feel might be at least one reason for the rising death rates, recent reports show that Americans who have simply given up looking for work are at some of the highest rates ever recorded.
The study also comes on the heels of news of the cascade of failures of Obamacare as well as the collapse of many Obamacare state exchanges despite the President’s claim that his signature healthcare policy would help Americans live longer, more fulfilling and healthy lives.
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