Posts Tagged ‘Death Rate’

Opioid abuse and the white American death rate

July 12, 2016

I wrote blog posts some time back about the Case-Deaton study of the rising death rate in the 21st century among middle-aged white people without college educations—a strange trend because the death rate continues to fall for all other demographic groups and also for Europeans.

OXYCONTINI also reviewed a book, Dreamland, about over-prescription of optoid drugs and how this has led to a heroin epidemic specifically among white people.  I didn’t make the obvious connection with the Case-Deaton study.

A blogger who calls himself Lambert Strether pointed out that the body count from opioid overdoses approaches the number of deaths from AIDS.  If you think of opioid overdose as a disease, the vector of the spread is not a microbe and not unsafe sex, but the marketing strategies of certain drug companies—especially Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of OxyContin.

I accept that there are deeper reasons for the rise in drug abuse than the unethical marketing of one drug by one company.  Purdue Pharma would not have been so successful if there hadn’t been a big potential demand for its product.  I still think drug prohibition hasn’t worked, just as alcohol prohibition didn’t work and gun prohibition wouldn’t work.

This is another question for which I don’t have good answers.  What do you think?


Genocide by Prescription: The ‘Natural History’ of the Declining White Working Class in America by James Petras and Robin Eastman Abaya [added 7/14/2016]

Credentialism and Corruption: The Opioid Epidemic and the Looting Professional Class by Lambert Strether for naked capitalism.  Very much worth reading.

Poison Pill by Mike Mariani for Pacific Standard.

Drug abuse and suicide: Why death rates have spiked among middle-aged white Americans, an interview of Angus Deaton, one of the authors of the study, by Christina Cauterucci for Slate.

Opioid Addiction 2016 Facts & Figures by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

What is killing Southern white women?

January 26, 2016


Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Two researchers at Princeton University published a study last November indicating that the death rate for middle-aged white Americans was on the increase.

Statistical blogger Andrew Gelman analyzed the figures and concluded that the increase is concentrated among white women in the South.

Double click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

One thing he did was to adjust the figures according to age.  Not everybody in an age group, such as 55 to 64, is the same age, and changes in age distribution can skew the figures over time.

The top chart shows the results of Gelman’s adjustment and analysis.

The Princeton study said the main causes for the increased death rate were drug-related (overdoses), alcohol related (liver disease) and suicide—all indicators of despair.   An earlier study said higher mortality among white women was correlated with lack of education and heavy smoking.

Why would this affect Southerners, whites or women more than other Americans?  I don’t know.  I’m pretty sure, however, that southern white women, like other Americans, would be healthier and happier in a high-wage, full-employment economy.


Midlife death rate up more for U.S. white women

November 13, 2015

focus_group_3-1024x878Source: Andrew Gelman.

Last week I posted my thoughts about a study indicating a rising death rate among white American men age 45 to 54. Statistics expert Andrew Gelman writes that, if you make an apples-to-apples comparison, it is white American women we should be most concerned about.

He said the study did not take into account that the composition of the age 45 to 54 age group changed from 1999 to 2013. There was a higher proportion of white Americans in their early 50s and fewer in their late 40s.

If you make an age-adjusted comparison—45-year-olds to 45-year-olds, 46-year-olds to 46-year-olds and so on—the chart above shows what the trend looks like over time.

The age-adjusted death rate for middle-aged white American men is in fact higher than in 1999, but Gelman said it is white American women age 52 and under that should be the main concern.


Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century by Anne Case and Angus Deaton of Princeton University.

Death rates have been increasing for middle-aged white women, decreasing for men by Andrew Gelman for Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference and Social Science.

Correcting statistical biases in “Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century”. We need to adjust for the increase in the average age of people in the 45-54 age category by Andrew Gelman for Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference and Social Science.  (Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist)

To Understand Climbing Death Rates Among Whites, Look to Women of Childbearing Age by Laudan Aron, Lisa Debray, Elaine Waxman and Steven Martin for Health Affairs Blog.  (Hat tip to naked capitalism)

More American White Women Are Dying Prematurely by Stephanie Mencimer for Mother Jones.

What’s Killing Poor White Women? by Monica Potts for American Prospect (2013)

What is killing middle-aged white men? Despair

November 4, 2015


We take it for granted that, in scientifically advanced countries, the death rate will decline.  But since 1999, there has been a dramatic increase in the death rate among non-Hispanic American white men aged 45 to 54, especially those without education beyond high school.

No such increase occurs among middle-aged white people in other countries or among other American ethnic groups.  Although the death rate for African-Americans is higher, it is not increasing, and, as the chart shows, the death rate for middle-aged Hispanic Americans (USH) is decreasing.

A Princeton University study indicates that the main reasons for the increased death rate are an increase in alcohol-related disease (liver disease), in drug overdoses (heroin and opioids) and in suicide—all diseases associated with depression and despair.

[Note added 11/13/2015: Some experts say the increase is primarily among middle-aged white women.]


One reason I’m glad I’ve lived when I have

May 20, 2013
Death rates per 1 million people.  Source: CDC

Death rates per 1 million Americans.   Click to enlarge.  Source: CDC

I came across the top chart when I was looking for something else.  It reminded of my childhood in the 1940s, when it was common for children to be laid up with measles, whooping cough, chicken pox and other “childhood diseases.”  I was lucky.  The only one I got was measles.  I also was lucky in that these diseases were rarely fatal, which was not the case everywhere, either then or now.

The chart shows the death rate from infectious diseases starting to creep back up a little after 1980.  I couldn’t find charts of infectious disease death rates in the 21st century, but my guess is that the death rate has continued to rise, because of natural selection producing disease germs that resist antibiotics and because of new forms of infectious disease such as AIDS.  This doesn’t mean that progress is an illusion, only that it requires a continuing effort.

I still feel lucky to have lived when I have.


Click to enlarge.   Source: New England Journal of Medicine

One reason for the lowering of the American death rate during the last century is that public health has been regarded as a public responsibility.  If availability of vaccination and sanitation had been limited to those who could afford to pay for it, the improvements shown on these charts would not have taken place.  It also is a fact that the big breakthroughs in medicine, such as Alexander Fleming’s discovery that penicillin is an antibiotic or Jonas Salk’s development of the Salk vaccine for polio,  came from researchers working in the public sector.

Hat tip for the top chart to Ezra Klein.