A new study finds that death rates in middle-aged white Americans have been rising unlike every other age, racial and ethnic groups.
The finding was reported by two Princeton economists, Angus Deaton, who last month won the 2015 Nobel Memorial Prize in for Economic Science, and Anne Case.
Analyzing health and mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from other sources, they concluded that rising annual death rates among this group are being driven by an epidemic of suicides. The main causes of suicide are troubles stemming from substance abuse: alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.
The mortality rate for white Americans 45 to 54 years old with poor education background education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.
"This is a vivid indication that something is awry in these American households" said Samuel Preston, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on mortality trends, who was not involved in the research.
"It is difficult to find modern settings with survival losses of this magnitude," wrote two Dartmouth economists, Ellen Meara and Jonathan Skinner, in a commentary to the Deaton-Case analysis that was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.