Death rates rising for middle-aged white Americans, study finds

November 13, 2015

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

New York Times

A new study of health and mortality data has found that death rates are rising among middle-aged white American men and women, but not among any other age or racial/ethnic group in the U.S., or among white middle-aged adults in other developed countries. The causes of this increase are not the typical diseases one might expect, such as heart disease and diabetes, but rather suicides and problems due to substance abuse (such as liver disease from alcohol abuse, and overdoses of heroin and opioids).  “Only HIV/AIDS in contemporary times has done anything like this,” said Angus Deaton, one of the study’s authors and a Princeton University economist. The current increase in death rates has been occurring mainly among people with a high school education or less. Their rates increased by 22 percent while the rates of those who were college educated decreased. The study also revealed that the increases in death rates occurred in tandem with reported increases in poor health, physical pain, difficulty socializing and working, and financial and mental distress among middle-aged white Americans compared to other groups, and those with the least education were the most affected.

Spark Extra! To learn more about the study results, see the journal article.