Monday, April 18, 2016

Rising rural death rates blamed on substance use; writer invites readers to offer their own reasons

The recent drop in life expectancy for rural Americans, especially women, is blamed mainly on a host of factors, such as drug abuse, smoking, alcoholism, poor nutrition, bad housing, underemployment, air quality and education. The Washington Post's report on the phenomenon was excerpted on The Rural Blog last week.

Trudy Lieberman
“Some researchers have speculated that such destructive health behaviors may stem from people’s struggles to find jobs in small communities and the 'dashed expectations' hypothesis,” Trudy Lieberman writes for Rural Health News Service. “White people today are more pessimistic about their opportunities to advance in life than their parents and grandparents were. They are also more pessimistic than their black and Hispanic contemporaries.”

Lieberman reports that she recently heard U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy talk about his upcoming report on substance abuse. “About 2.2 million people need help, he said, but only about one million are actually getting it,” she writes. “Murthy wants his report to have consequences as far reaching as the 1964 surgeon general’s report linking tobacco use to lung cancer. In 1964, Murthy noted, 42 percent of Americans smoked; today fewer than 17 percent do. . . . The surgeon general has taken on an enormous task, but his efforts just might help the nation move its life expectancy trends back in the right direction.”

At the end of her column, "Thinking About Health," Lieberman asks readers, "What do you think is causing poor health in your community?" and invites them to tell her at

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