The death rate among white middle-aged Americans is rising. Drug and alcohol use that results in death from either poisoning or chronic disease, as well as increased self-extermination, point to social pathologies fostered by government policies. (photo: Suzanne Toro/Getty Images)
By David Cay Johnston, Al Jazeera America, 07 November 15
Among middle-aged white Americans, the death rate is rising even as the rest of the world enjoys longer life spans
he death rate among white middle-aged Americans is rising at an alarming rate, even as death rates for all other Americans are falling. The increase is concentrated among whites with meager educations and is “largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis,” according to two Princeton University scholars, one of whom was just awarded the Nobel in economics.
Their findings should awaken Americans to the price we pay for pursuing economic policies that enrich the few at the expense of the many.
Drug and alcohol use that results in death from either poisoning or chronic disease, as well as increased self-extermination, point to social pathologies fostered by government policies that favor moving jobs offshore, reducing wages, restricting access to health care and enabling age discrimination in hiring.
There is good reason to think worsening economic conditions are at the heart of what the Princeton economists — Anne Case and Angus Deaton, the new Nobel laureate — found by simply analyzing published mortality data.
Case and Deaton, who are married, found “declines in self-reported health, mental health and ability to work, increased reports of pain, and deteriorating measures of liver function all point to increasing midlife distress,” according to their paper published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
We’ll return to that in a moment, but first, let’s get a handle on the enormity of this macabre trend among middle-aged white Americans.