A new study by two Princeton economists found that, unlike every other major demographic, middle-aged white men are dying at a higher rate. While the mortality rates of other racial and ethnic groups continue to decline, the death rate for middle-aged white men is climbing sharply. But it’s not obesity or heart disease that’s causing the disturbing trend.
It’s suicide and drug addiction.
Analyzing health and mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from other sources, they concluded that rising annual death rates among this group are being driven not by the big killers like heart disease and diabetes but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse:alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.
The analysis by Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case may offer the most rigorous evidence to date of both the causes and implications of a development that has been puzzling demographers in recent years: the declining health and fortunes of poorly educated American whites. In middle age, they are dying at such a high rate that they are increasing the death rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans, Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case found.
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.
“Only H.I.V./AIDS in contemporary times has done anything like this,” said Deaton.
Perhaps the most troubling revelation is that the trend does not seem to be a short-lived anomaly. Deaton and Case’s findings suggesting that this pattern is likely to continue.
“They concluded that rising annual death rates among this group are being driven not by the big killers like heart disease and diabetes but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse …”
Princeton economists Angus Deaton and Anna Case, according to The New York Times
While middle-aged black males still have a higher death rate than whites (581 per 100,000, 415 per 100,000), as the Times notes, adding, “the gap is closing” as more and more uneducated white men fall to self-destructive tendencies.
Read the full summary here.
Image (via AP): Angus Deaton greets people at Princeton University after it was announced that he won the Nobel prize in economics for improving understanding of poverty and how people in poor countries respond to changes in economic policy Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Princeton, N.J.