Middle-Aged White Men/Demographics Mental Health
Death rates are rising for middle-aged white American men. It’s unlike every other age group, every other racial and ethic group and unlike their counterparts in other rich countries.
Angus Deaton, Princeton Economist, 2015 Nobel Peace Memorial Prize in Economic Service, and Anne Case, also a Princeton Economist discovered the hypothesis about this group of middle-aged American men dying earlier than in any other place in the developed world. (1)
The rising annual death rates are being driven by despair, as reported by the scientists Drs. Deaton and Case. The demographics for their study were white men between 45 to 54 years old with only a high school education. The mortality rates for those with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.
Deaton and Case concluded the group they analyzed did not die by the big killers like heart disease and cancer but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse: alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.
The data for the report was collected from surveys and reports including from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1999 to 2014. The final paper was published in 2015, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Of note, deaths caused by drug and alcohol rose fourfold; suicides rose by 81%.
Death caused by alcohol-related liver disease and cirrhosis rose by 50%.
Some of the deaths can be blamed on job loss and financial problems. An estimated number of deaths during this time is one-half million.
Other factors listed in the study leading to the poor health of middle-aged American men included:
- Pessimistic outlook about their financial future
- More pain in recent years
- One-third in the group reported they had chronic joint pain
- One in seven said they had sciatica
- Inflation adjusted fell by 19%
- Increased number with mental illness or developing mental illness (depression, anxiety, panic)
- Difficulty in socializing
- Increased number said they were unable to work.
The death rates for middle-aged Hispanics and black men, as well as those age 65 and over in all racial and ethnic groups, have continued to decline. (The death rate for middle-aged whites continued to climb. The death rate for middle-aged Hispanics is well below both groups.) (2)
The findings of these alarming numbers in middle-aged white American males have never been captured before.
In a commentary published along with the study, two Dartmouth economists noted that the inflation-adjustment income for households headed by high school graduates fell by 19 percent during the years analyzed. However, this doesn’t completely explain why the surge in deaths occurred only among white men and not black or Hispanic males, who also faced serious economic problems during the same time period. (3)
If nothing is done, does this mean more middle-life American men will age into Medicare in worse shape than the elderly today and despair will be the reason why?
I feel deeply saddened by this research.
What are your thoughts on this problem? Do you believe there’s hope that our country can reverse this plague against white middle-aged American men who find themselves without a technical or college education.