Life expectancy

Death Rate for Young White Americans Is Rising Instead of Falling

An estimated 111,000 excess premature deaths occurred in white individuals between 1999 and 2014


Chalermphon Kumchai/Dreamstime

Premature death rates for young white Americans and American Indians and Alaska Natives increased between 1999 and 2014, reports a new study in The Lancet. These disturbing results were reported by a team led by researchers from the National Cancer Institute that parsed data from National Center for Health Statistics. Death rates are supposed to be falling in modern prosperous societies like ours. From the study:

Increases [in death rates] were highest in women and those aged 25–30 years. Among 30-year-olds, annual mortality increases were 2·3% (95% CI 2·1–2·4) for white women, 0·6% (0·5–0·7) for white men, and 4·3% (3·5–5·0) and 1·9% (1·3–2·5), respectively, for American Indian and Alaska Native women and men. These increases were mainly attributable to accidental deaths (primarily drug poisonings), chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, and suicide. Among individuals aged 25–49 years, an estimated 111?000 excess premature deaths occurred in white individuals and 6600 in American Indians and Alaska Natives during 2000–14.

Largely as a result of these trends, U.S. life expectancy actually fell this past year for the first time since 1993. The good news is that the trajectory of death rates among Hispanics, blacks, and Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States continues downward. I reported on rising death rates among young and mid-life white Americans

The researchers conclude that rising death rates are …

…primarily because of potentially avoidable causes such as drug poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. The magnitude of annual mortality increases in the USA is extremely unusual in high-income countries, and a rapid public health response is needed to avert further premature deaths.

I have been reporting on rising death rates among young and mid-life white Americans for a while now. I speculate that death rates are rising because many poor white Americans have come to believe that the modern world is leaving them behind and are seeking solace in mind-numbing substances and suicide. For more background see my January 2017 article "Stuck" about my visit to McDowell County, West Virginia whence my paternal grandparents and father hail.

*Hat tip to Alex Berezow over at the superb American Council on Science and Health.