Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Death rates on the rise for white middle-class Americans without a college degree

The death rate for white Americans ages 45 to 54 with less than a college education rose dramatically from 1999 to 2013, "most likely because of problems with legal and illegal drugs, alcohol and suicide," said researchers of a study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Lenny Bernstein and Joel Achenbach report for The Washington Post. Prior to 1999, "death rates for that group dropped steadily, and at a faster pace." (Post graphic: Death rate for U.S. non-Hispanic whites (USW), U.S. Hispanics and six comparison countries, aged 45-54)

Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel laureate in economics, who co-authored the paper with his wife, Anne Case, both economics professors at Princeton University, said, “Drugs and alcohol and suicide . . . are clearly the proximate cause. Half a million people are dead who should not be dead. About 40 times the Ebola stats. You’re getting up there with HIV-AIDS.”

The study "could have far-reaching implications as the surviving members of this sizable segment of the population continue toward retirement and eligibility for Medicare, according to experts," Bernstein and Achenbach write. "A sicker population that has been less able to prepare for the costs associated with old age will place an increasing burden on society and federal programs, they said."

"Death rates for other developed nations examined by the two researchers, as well as rates for U.S. blacks and Hispanics, continued their steady decline of recent decades," Bernstein and Achenbach write. "Whites in other age groups between 30 and 64 and more educated whites also had lower death rates. But the other age groups also experienced substantially higher death rates from drug and alcohol overdoses, suicide, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver." (Read more)

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