Sunday, December 13, 2015

Increased Mortality Among Middle-Aged Whites

Mortality rates for most age- and racial-groups have declined over the past several decades. But among middle-aged whites, the mortality rate has actually increased. No other rich country has shown such a trend. Among poorly-educated white non-Hispanic Americans between the ages of 45 and 54, for example, mortality rate increased more than 10% between 1999 and 2013.

The culprit, it appears, is not one or more of the chronic diseases usually associated with more developed countries, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. The main causes are suicides, and deaths due to drugs and alcohol, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These are generally signs of stress in a population, not consequences of affluence.

Although the mortality rate for middle-aged whites is the only mortality rate that is rising at the moment, it's still 40% lower than that for blacks. So perhaps we shouldn't make too much of this recent finding, except that it may tell us that in the future we'll have to focus on mental health and the sense of well-being for all racial groups, if we are to make any additional progress on mortality rates.

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