Why Are Middle-Aged White People’s Death Rates Rising?

Christina Cauterucci in Slate:

DrugTwo Princeton economists released a study on Monday that puts the United States’ recent spike in heroin and prescription drug overdoses in alarming perspective. Overall death rates among middle-aged white Americans are rising due to a huge jump in suicides and certain drug- and alcohol-related deaths, while at the same time falling in every other age group, racial or ethnic group, and wealthy nation in the world. The study’s authors, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, a married couple, were each working on unrelated research projects when they hit upon this trend. Though deaths from suicides, accidental drug and alcohol poisonings, and liver diseases related to alcohol abuse are on the rise among all education groups in middle age, they’ve had a particularly detrimental effect on whites with a high school level education or less. In this education group, the mortality rate for whites aged 45 to 54 rose by 134 deaths per 100,000 people—from 602 to 736—between 1999 and 2013, enough to turn around the previous downward overall trend of mortality rates for the entire age and race group.

In the study, you present a few possible reasons for the climb in morbidity, including the fact that middle-aged people are experiencing more chronic pain than in previous years, which could lead to suicide or drug abuse. What implications could this study have on discussions of U.S. health care?

I am not sure this has much to do with health care. Addiction is very hard to treat, and it is not clear that insurance, even with the extension to mental health, is helping as much as it can.

More here.