Americans are struggling with an increasing death rate among middle-aged, non-Hispanic white people with a lower level of education. While death rates among other segments of the population have been decreasing, this part of society has had a constantly increasing death rate since the late 1990s.
Increasing death rates among lower educated whites
Anne Case and Angus Deaton, professors at Princeton University, put up a study in which they looked at death rates among white non-Hispanic people with a high school diploma or less. They noticed that, in 1999, death rates among these people were 30 percent lower than those among black people. Now, they are 30 percent higher.
Some of the reasons that contributed to these high death rates are substance abuse and poor health. However, Case and Deaton blame the deaths of despair for the population decrease, as well as less progresses in the battle with cancer and heart disease.
What are the deaths of despair?
Such deaths are usually fueled by substance abuse, such as drugs and alcohol. However, as the name suggests, suicide is on the list, too. Americans, especially those with a lower level of education, are highly hooked on opioids, including prescription painkillers and their more dangerous relative, heroin.
All starts with a common injury that makes the patient take painkillers. This brings the person closer to becoming addicted to the pills. If they can no longer obtain the drugs through a prescription, this is the moment when they turn to heroin. Then, a fatal overdose is near. Opioid overdoses are categorized as suicide and they proved more fatal than car crashes in 2016.
Such a high rate of opioid deaths is caused mainly by fentanyl. This is a drug which is usually used as a substitute for heroin. It is stronger and can even be more dangerous than heroin. Many people resort to it when they develop a high tolerance to the drug, or others end up injecting it without knowing it is not heroin.
The researchers also explained why such deaths of despair are more common among less educated people. They struggle with more hardships than people with a higher education, they have financial and social problems, so are more likely to develop mental health issues, resort to substance abuse, or have an overall poorer health.
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