Monday, August 22, 2016

Rural white women's death rate up 23% in 15 years

"Across America, especially in rural and working-class communities, death rates have been accelerating among middle-aged white women for a generation," Terrence McCoy reports for The Washington Post as part of an ongoing series, "Unnatural Causes: Sick and Dying in Small-Town America." A Post analysis of national death rates over the past 15 years found that the mortality rate for similarly aged white women increased 23 percent, compared to a 16 percent increase for white men and decreases of between 10 to 20 percent among black and Hispanic men and women.

Wikipedia map: McCreary County
Rates are especially high in impoverished areas, such as McCreary County, Kentucky, which "has seen a 75 percent increase in the mortality rate for white women between the ages of 35 and 59, one of the highest increases in the nation," McCoy writes. A University of Washington study "found that McCreary County women are more likely to be obese and engage in life-shortening behaviors such as binge drinking than in previous generations." Smoking rates also are high.

McCoy tells the story of McCreary County through a funeral home, which said it buried 31 white women younger than 60 last year, up from 20 in 2013. According to Census Bureau and state figures, in McCreary County "nearly 40 percent of households receive food stamps and 77 percent of students qualify for free or reduced school lunches." Drugs also are an issue in the county of 18,000, with local undertaker Dan Ridener saying "there wasn’t a single family in McCreary County that hasn’t been affected by drugs, including his own daughter’s."

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