New Study Shows Economic Despair Linked To Spike In The Mortality Rate Of White Middle-Aged Americans


A recent study led by Princeton University economists, Ann Case and Angus Deaton, shows a sharp increase in mortality rates among white Americans are contributed to the feelings of economic despair.

The findings suggest that Americans, with less education are dying from alcohol and drug overdoses, obesity, alcohol-related liver disease and suicide, along with cancer and cardiovascular disease. The researchers are referring to the phenomenon as “deaths of despair.”


Mortality And Morbidity In The 21st Century
Image: Brookings

According to the Princeton researchers, the affected areas include the rural Appalachia and cities throughout the nation, including Baltimore. Alcohol and drug abuse is linked to the high death rate of non-college educated whites in these areas.

Working-class families are seeing less economic opportunities, leading to personal issues, such as mental health illness and martial discord that eventually escalates out of control.

“We propose a preliminary but plausible story in which cumulative disadvantage over life, in the labor market, in marriage, in child outcomes, and in health, is triggered by progressively worsening labor market opportunities at the time of entry for whites with low level education,” the report said.

In 2015, Anne Case and Angus Deaton published a paper that showed a spike in mortality of middle-aged white women and men between 1999 and 2013. The findings in this study showed an increase in mortality across the board, but people with a high school degree or less was 30 percent higher than blacks.

The new study is an add-on to the previous study, focusing more on the causes of the increasing mortality rates. Since the 1990s, middle-aged Americans with only a high school diploma have been dying at higher rates, even though the midlife mortality rates continue to fall throughout the world.

The study, Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century, was published in the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity.

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