Drugs, Booze and Anxiety Raise Death Rates Among White Middle-Aged US Citizens
Andy Coghlan - New Scientist
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November 3, 2015

A heady mix of booze, drug addiction and financial anxiety is dragging white, middle-aged people in the US to an early grave.

An analysis of disease and death rates has found that death rates for white, non-Hispanic US citizens aged 45 to 54 rose by about 0.5 per cent per year between 1999 and 2013. People of the same ages in all other rich countries, as well as black and Hispanic US citizens, saw a 2 per cent fall in death rates per year over the same period.

“I don’t think there’s any single explanation,” says Angus Deaton of Princeton University, who co-authored the analysis with his colleague Anne Case. He says it seems to be a culmination of many slow-acting factors, such as pension worries, alcoholism, lower wages and the availability of addictive painkillers.

Deaton, who was awarded the Nobel prize for economics last month, says that in the 1990s there was an increase in the availability of addictive painkillers and wider access to black-market heroin that coincided with the uptick in mid-life deaths among white people.

“One thing people have talked about a lot is the much wider availability of opioids, especially one called OxyContin,” says Deaton. “It’s very effective at relieving pain, but has an important addictive component.”

He adds that “at the same time, there’s been a large influx of pure heroin from Mexico, and that has been focused in rural areas of the US and mainly among whites”. Generally speaking, says Deaton, both painkillers and heroin have been more available to whites than blacks and Hispanics, which may partly explain why the other groups have avoided the reversal in death rates that is so striking among white US people.

Read the rest at New Scientist

Related: Rehab Guides for Addiction & Mental Health: What You Need to Know About Finding Treatment (American Addiction Centers)

Related: Heroin, Prescription Pain Pills Top Drug Threat in the US (WiscNews)

Photo: Matt Champlin/Getty

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