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Death By Despair: Rising White Mortality Rates For Young and Old

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White people are suddenly dying much younger than before, and each new set of data shows the toll reaching much farther than ever imagined by our best-and-brightest, secular, Ivy League, technocratic, would-be guardians throughout the federal government.

The first set of bad news was delivered in December by research that showed the mortality rate for middle-aged white people has been rising since the turn of the century. The difference in mortality rates added up to half a million deaths that should have been prevented. Technically, the white mortality rate was not declining as quickly as it has been for other groups. 

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Subsequent analysis suggested that middle-aged white women began suffering higher mortality rates around 2005, leading to theories that women were suffering more economic and job-related stress, suffering from the decline of stable marriage (especially when obliged to raise children as single mothers), or even more likely than white men to seek medical treatment and end up with drug prescriptions.

Now comes word that the mortality rate for young white people is rising too, reaching “levels not seen since the end of the AIDS epidemic more than two decades ago,” according to the New York Times.

While the death rate among young whites rose for every age group over the five years before 2014, it rose faster by any measure for the less educated, by 23 percent for those without a high school education, compared with only 4 percent for those with a college degree or more.

The drug overdose numbers were stark. In 2014, the overdose death rate for whites ages 25 to 34 was five times its level in 1999, and the rate for 35- to 44-year-old whites tripled during that period. The numbers cover both illegal and prescription drugs.

“That is startling,” said Dr. Wilson Compton, the deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Those are tremendous increases.”

Rising rates of overdose deaths and suicide appear to have erased the benefits from advances in medical treatment for most age groups of whites. Death rates for drug overdoses and suicides “are running counter to those of chronic diseases,” like heart disease, said Ian Rockett, an epidemiologist at West Virginia University.

Darmouth economist Jonathan Skinner remarked that the trend lines for drug overdose deaths looked like the outbreak of some horrifying new infectious disease.  

Once again, there is speculation that much of the white mortality surge is due to prescription drugs… and, for younger people, a disturbing resurgence of interest in heroin, which a May 2014 report from NPR described as a progression from prescription painkillers, especially opioids such as Oxycontin.

In a study cited by NPR, young heroin abusers described it as a cheaper, easier-to-obtain alternative to the prescription painkillers they got hooked on.  The more recent New York Times piece also tells the stories of several middle-aged whites who graduated from prescription drugs to heroin, with deadly results.

The heroin epidemic has grown bad enough for the governor of Vermont to declare a statewide “heroin crisis,” while Rhode Island police requested drugs that could reverse the effects of the heroin overdoses they were too frequently encountering.

The New York Times piece on rising mortality rates for young whites includes the suggestion that black youth might be benefiting from a bit of racial discrimination: “Studies have found that doctors are much more reluctant to prescribe painkillers to minority patients, worrying that they might sell them or become addicted.”

One of the Princeton economists who launched this story by noting the higher mortality rates for middle-aged whites, Anne Case, said the surge in young white mortality was part of “a real rumbling that bad things are coming down the pike.”  Virtually every other condition that can prove fatal for young- and middle-aged people has been controlled with improved medical treatments, but drug abuse and related suicides are getting worse.

“Researchers are struggling to come up with an answer to the question of why whites in particular are doing so poorly,” writes the Times. “No one has a clear answer, but researchers repeatedly speculate that the nation is seeing a cohort of whites who are isolated and left out of the economy and society and who have gotten ready access to cheap heroin and to prescription narcotic drugs.”

Also mentioned by several researchers is the dissolution of family relationships – the scarcity of stable families to provide support for both the young and middle-aged, as they contend with health problems, stressful situations, and economic hardship.  “For too many, and especially for too many women, they are not in stable relationships, they don’t have jobs, they have children they can’t feed and clothe, and they have no support network,” said University of Southern California professor Eileen Crimmins.

Olga Khazan at The Atlantic proposes an economic dimension to the problem, as decent jobs for people without college degrees have been “evaporating quickly over the past 15 years.”  That trend should, in theory, affect non-white demographics as well, but Khazan describes the despair of reduced expectations – people struggling to “afford things like therapy, gym memberships, and recreation that isn’t drugs,” losing the social networks and sense of purpose that come from career employment, and worrying about their retirement years.  For better or worse, that frustration with a lost American Dream could be especially acute for middle-aged whites.

Another point to consider is that while increased health means people can expect longer lives, and longer careers, they can also be among the first victims of outsourcing, and the first to be replaced by cheaper imported labor.  This is mentioned in Michelle Malkin’s new book Sold Out, which tells many stories of older tech professionals being made to train younger foreign replacements on their way out the door.  Whether the replacement labor is native or foreign-born, older workers with a great deal of accumulated seniority and benefits usually wind up costing more than young new hires.

None of this death by despair was supposed to happen.  

We have long been assured that marriage isn’t that important, out-of-wedlock births are nothing to fret about, single life is “liberating” and “empowering,” government wellfare-bureaucrats can serve as your partner in life, welfare is as good as employment, mass immigration is simply covering the “jobs Americans won’t do,” and people who talk about spiritual values are just Religious Right cranks.  

The period from the late Nineties to the present day has been dominated by Bill Clinton’s “Third Way,” George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” and Barack Obama’s mega-state.  “Family values” became sarcastic terms of derision during the Clinton years.  People who talk about duty, honor, individual responsibility, and values are just busybodies who get off on telling people what to do.

Instead, the world our “betters” made for us is haunted by a terrible emptiness, and the void is hungry.

 


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