White suicides, drug use cause mortality spike
A new study released by the federal government indicates that white people are dying at alarming rates by suicide and drug overdose.
Although the white mortality rate as a whole decreased between 2000 and 2014 — largely due to advances in treatment for heart disease and cancer — the National Center for Health Statistics report showed gains made by white Americans trailed those made by other groups.
While the white life expectancy increased by 1.4 years over that span (to 78.8 years), black Americans gained 3.6 years of life on average (75.2 years), and Hispanic Americans added an extra 2.6 years (81.8 years).
Not only that, but the gains in white life expectancy were distributed counterintuitively, with those between the ages of 65 and 84 receiving the lion’s share of the extra years. White Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 actually have a higher mortality rate than their counterparts 14 years prior.
The study pins the mortality increase among young adult and middle-aged white Americans on deaths due to unintentional injuries, suicides and chronic liver disease stemming from drug use.
In the unintentional injuries subcategory, white Americans were less likely to die in car accidents but more likely to die from unintentional falls and poisonings due to drugs and alcohol.
While a decrease in fatalities from car accidents added .153 years to the white life expectancy, deaths due to unintentional poisonings subtracted .338 years from the white life average.
Deaths due to unintentional injuries were 63.3 percent more likely for white Americans between the ages of 25 and 34; 41.5 percent more likely for those between the ages of 35 and 44; and 73.5 percent more likely for those between the ages of 45 and 54.
As for suicides, white Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 are 37.3 percent more likely to take their lives; 30.2 percent more likely between the ages of 35 and 44; and 57.5 percent more likely between the ages of 45 and 54.
The death rate due to chronic liver disease increased by 30.9 percent for white Americans in the 45 to 54 age cohort.
“Increases in mortality due to unintentional poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver disease directly affected the change in life expectancy over the past 15 years for the non-Hispanic white population,” conclude the study’s authors — Elizabeth Arias, Brigham A. Bastian and Kenneth D. Kochanek.
The phenomenon of decelerating white mortality gains has been documented in several other studies, leading researchers to question why a group perceived to be high on the socioeconomic ladder is dying off.
A December 2015 report published by Princeton University researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton attributed the midlife mortality spike to “growing distress” among white Americans, due in part to difficulty finding work.
“Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population,” the researchers concluded.
The researchers termed the phenomenon a “quiet epidemic” that has led to the deaths of 500,000 white Americans who should not have died.