White Americans are among the most statistically wealthy in the world and health care advances in our country have been improving by leaps and bounds. It comes as a surprise to many then that there has been an increase in mortality rates over the past fifteen years, with much of the causes coming from deaths related to drugs and alcohol addiction. The number of increased deaths is numerically comparative to the AIDS epidemic in America.

In other groups: In most of history, mortality rates have only improved, and the past fifteen years have reversed “decades of progress”, including to researchers who authored the paper “Rising Morbidity and Mortality in Midlife Among White Non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st Century.” Also surprising is that this pattern is not being followed in other rich European or Scandinavian countries, and the reversal is not replicated in African Americans or Hispanics in the US. Regionally, suicide rates are higher in the South and West of the United States than in the Northeast and Midwest. Across the country, deaths due to drugs and alcohol were twice as high as the suicide risk increase.

Raised Mortality Rates for Specific Groups of Individuals

By education level: The findings show that low-educated Caucasians are most affected by the increase, although the death rates related to drug addiction, alcohol, and suicide have risen among white people of all education levels. There was a fourfold increase for those with only a high school diploma for drug and alcohol poisoning related deaths, an 81 percent increase in suicides and a 50 percent increase in deaths caused by liver disease and cirrhosis.

Opioid Availability Spurs Addiction: Since the statistics of increased death among white middle aged Americans are focused mainly on the past 15 years, one of the key factors may be the increased availability of opioids starting in the last 90s. People would be prescribed these drugs for their pain conditions, and develop an addiction to the medication. Then as opioid prescriptions became more closely monitored and they were harder or more expensive to obtain, the substitution of heroin for the prescription drugs added to the death increases.

Financial Stressors: Related in part to the great recession, economic insecurity will definitely take a toll on the physical and mental health of American workers. This then ties into the difficulties of saving for retirement, and especially again for those with a high school education or less.

Pain Reports also Increase: Besides pain that was attempted to be eased with opioids, nearly a third of white middle-aged Americans have been reporting chronic joint pain in the past several years, all of which are increasing over the past 15 years. This also corresponds closely for those with the least education, as are the prevalence of mental illness and the associated risk of suicides.

If you are struggling with addiction related to drugs or alcohol, you still have time to prevent your own life becoming effected by these increased mortality rates. At the Discovery Institute of New Jersey, we provide the patient services and care that you and your family deserve. For more information, give us a call today at 800-714-2175 to learn how we can help.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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