‘…As first highlighted by Princeton economists in 2015, the death rate for non-Hispanic, white Americans has been climbing since the late 90s. For decades, death rates (the number of deaths in a given population) have dropped for Americans overall, and middle-aged whites were no exception. Each year, on average, the death rate dropped by 2 percent.
But in 1998, something flipped, and while the death rates for everyone else—including black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans—continued to steadily drop, the death rates for middle-aged white Americans start to creep up: 0.5 percent a year, every year.
They’ve been dubbed “deaths of despair,” due to the high number of overdose and suicide deaths. Those same economists, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, have now published a follow-up report where they’ve attempted to untangle the cause of this epidemic. While many experts supposed it’s linked to a worsening economy and lower incomes, Case and Deaton say their analysis shows it’s not so simple.
“The story is rooted in the labor market, but involves many aspects of life, including health in childhood, marriage, child rearing, and religion,” the researchers wrote. “Although we do not see the supply of opioids as the fundamental factor, the prescription of opioids for chronic pain added fuel to the flames, making the epidemic much worse than it otherwise would have been.” …’