Death Rates Rising Among Middle Aged Whites (Climate of Health)

The overall U.S. death rate has been falling for years, but a new study suggests one group is dying at an increasing rate…..middle aged white Americans.

According to a story in the New York Times:

“…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.”

Overall, the U.S. mortality rate has been falling by about 2 percent a year since the 1970’s. But death rates for whites ages 45 to 54 have risen by half a percent per year since 1998, according to the study’s authors, Anne Case and Angus Deaton of Princeton University.

Deaton, who won the Nobel Prize in economics this year, is quoted in the Washington Post as saying, ““Half a million people are dead who should not be dead.” He added, “about 40 times the Ebola stats. You’re getting up there with HIV-AIDS.”

From CNBC:

“From an economic perspective, there is also the potential for greater Medicare expenses in future if this age category moves into their elderly years in worse mental and physical shape than the previous generation. Much of this worrying trend can be accounted for by “increasing midlife distress”, according to Case and Deaton.”

Middle-aged whites without a college degree (high school diploma or less) also had the largest increases in deaths due to drug or alcohol overdoses, suicides, and chronic liver disease. Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher saw death rates fall — though they too posted an increase in mortality from suicide and drug and alcohol poisonings.

The death rate for middle-aged blacks and Hispanics continued to decline during the same period, as did death rates for younger and older people of all races and ethnic groups.

We hope you’ll take a minute to share your thoughts on these troubling new findings, which will no doubt have far reaching implications here in Arizona and across the country.

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