Health experts are now stunned by a rise in the nation’s overall death rates — the first in a decade, and really one of the few in a quarter-century that didn’t have a fairly clear explanation.
“The death rate rose to 729.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, up from 723.2 in 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. It was one of the few times in the past 25 years that the rate has increased. A bad flu season pushed it up in 2005, and AIDS and the flu contributed to a sharp increase in 1993. In 1999, there was a tiny increase,” the New York Times reports.
This time around, a combination of drug overdoses, suicide, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s were proposed as explanations. More precisely, the chief of mortality statistics at the National Center for Health Statistics, Robert Anderson, said the death rate from heart disease has “flattened” after declining for decades, giving other causes of death a greater share of the overall rate.
The Times stresses that researchers find the rise in death rates “surprising,” and are not yet certain if new data is only caused by the recently recognized “white death” bump in mortality rates for middle-aged whites. An increase in mortality rates from suicide and drug abuse among less-educated younger white Americans may also be a factor.
The increasing mortality rates from Alzheimer’s and related neurological conditions are puzzling. An explanation similar to the heart-disease anomaly has been suggested – in short, medical science is helping more people live long enough to be afflicted by “diseases of the elderly.” Other researchers suggest lifestyle factors leading to obesity, hypertension, and diabetes — bad diet and less exercise — have increased the risk of neurological disorders. Perhaps we will learn that substance abuse, and other behavioral factors like those driving the “white death,” are also bumping up the rates of neurological disease in the Baby Boom elderly.
Several reports on the new CDC figures, such as the Washington Post, throw “firearms” into the “factors implicated in the turnaround,” without presenting any statistical evidence to back it up. At the end of 2015, the Pew Research Center reported that although saturation media coverage had persuaded most Americans to believe the number of gun crimes had risen, “the U.S. gun homicide rate has actually stabilized somewhat in recent years,” after dropping by almost 50 percent since 1993. There was, however, an increase in gun suicide rates over the past few years.
Is this all a spin-off from the “fundamental transformation” of America touted by President Barack Obama during his first election campaign? Messianic promises of receding sea levels gave way to a reality of middle- and lower-class anxiety, diminished opportunity for young people, and a general sense of frustration and despair. The more disturbing analyses of the “white death” envision a middle-aged population looking forward to a long twilight of financial worries and uncertain purpose, less able to rely on the material and emotional resources of large, close-knit families than earlier generations.
Studies have suggested a tentative link between education and Alzheimer’s – more precisely, a theory that more intensive development of cognitive capacity early in life may provide greater resistance to elderly neurological disorders. Dare we ask if the declining quality of American education has some impact on cognitive development, leaving the new generation of elderly with a weak biological shield against Alzheimer’s? (If so, it’s going to get a lot worse as subsequent generations reach that age.)
Also, has the overall quality of intellectual life and community life deteriorated for people in less-educated groups or more diverse communities, making them less likely to independently participate in rigorous cognitive activities – broadband visual entertainment replacing books, chat replacing meticulously hand-written letters, solitary TV-watching replacing civic society, sofas supplanting social exercise?
Six years after the biggest Big Government program of the modern era “fixed” health care, mortality rates are spiking. Is that what ObamaCare’s “reformers” expected?
It’s difficult to understand demographic decline from either end of the spectrum: babies unborn, or older people dying too young. Is there some weird “kill switch” embedded into some cultures that makes them begin dying out – people making various lifestyle decisions that result in population decline?
Some of those trends are obvious, like a growing number of people choosing to live with their parents until middle age, instead of moving out and starting their own families when they’re young enough to have three or more kids.
Others are more subtle, like a generation losing its appreciation for the value of marriage, delaying it until late in life as a sort of advanced lifestyle choice… without quite grasping that stable marriage at younger ages is essential for raising the large families that are needed to sustain above-replacement birth rates and also to provide older Americans with security, satisfaction and hope for the future?
Some suggest this Culture of Despair isn’t a destructive spontaneous cultural trigger at all, but rather a deliberate transformation, imposed for generations now by Malthusian obsessives who regard un-ruled humanity as a disease, and overpopulation as an existential threat to the rulers.
How many times do young people hear some version of the argument that “bringing a baby into this awful world is a crime?” Only later do they begin to realize that having those kids, and their kids, to sustain us physically and spiritually in our golden years is vital.
Shouldn’t the doomsday environmentalists and overpopulation hysterics be glad that death rates are perking up? As researchers are pointing out, it will take several years of data to establish whether it’s a blip, or a sustained trend. Which are the purveyors of nihilistic culture hoping for?