Here we have Part 2 in a series of posts. For an explanation of the reason for this series and links to the other posts, please see SIGNS OF THE TIMES — PART 1: AN APPROACHING CRISIS?
What is this post about? Does the declining life expectancy of the American people indicate mounting frustration and brewing anger?
Consider how this report from NPR begins.
One of the fundamental ways scientists measure the well-being of a nation is tracking the rate at which its citizens die and how long they can be expected to live.
So the news out of the federal government Thursday is disturbing: The overall U.S. death rate has increased for the first time in a decade, according to an analysis of the latest data. And that led to a drop in overall life expectancy for the first time since 1993, particularly among people younger than 65.
“This is a big deal,” says Philip Morgan, a demographer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill who was not involved in the new analysis.
“There’s not a better indicator of well-being than life expectancy,” he says. “The fact that it’s leveling off in the U.S. is a striking finding.” (continued here)
Here are a couple of other reports which examine the causes of America’s declining life expectancy (H/T to marmoewp). It seems the decline in life expectancy is due to increasing despair.
- The Forces Driving Middle-Aged White People’s ‘Deaths Of Despair’
In 2015, when researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton discovered that death rates had been rising dramatically since 1999 among middle-aged white Americans, they weren’t sure why people were dying younger, reversing decades of longer life expectancy.
Now the husband-and-wife economists say they have a better understanding of what’s causing these “deaths of despair” by suicide, drugs and alcohol. (continued here)
- Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century: What is interesting about this report is that a particular group seems to be dying from despair.
In “Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century,” Princeton Professors Anne Case and Angus Deaton follow up on their groundbreaking 2015 paper that revealed a shocking increase in midlife mortality among white non-Hispanic Americans, exploring patterns and contributing factors to the troubling trend.
Case and Deaton find that while midlife mortality rates continue to fall among all education classes in most of the rich world, middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. with a high school diploma or less have experienced increasing midlife mortality since the late 1990s. This is due to both rises in the number of “deaths of despair”—death by drugs, alcohol and suicide—and to a slowdown in progress against mortality from heart disease and cancer, the two largest killers in middle age.
The combined effect means that mortality rates of whites with no more than a high school degree, which were around 30 percent lower than mortality rates of blacks in 1999, grew to be 30 percent higher than blacks by 2015. (continued here)
The second of these two articles contains this video clip. It is worth taking the time to listen.
Effectively, when people die from despair, they commit suicide. So here are some articles on why people commit suicide.
- 15 Common Causes Of Suicide: Why Do People Kill Themselves?
- Here’s One Way Of Understanding Why Some People Kill Themselves
- Why Some People Commit Suicide Without Warning
- Some Reasons Why People Kill Themselves
There are various theories as to why people kill themselves. The way researchers Case and Deaton tell it white blue-collar workers are killing themselves because their job prospects are bleak. Then they go on to tell us how important healthcare reform is to blue-collar, middle-aged white people.
But what is the problem? Is it just the smaller size of a paycheck? Is it an economic problem or a spiritual problem?
What do people need? What is our materialistic ideal? It is a respectable job; a substantial home; an attractive spouse; a few healthy, well-behaved children; a couple of new cars in the garage; and so forth. That’s the so-called American dream for which so many have sacrificed so much.
Were we right to chase the materialistic ideal? What people need most are other people they can love, people who love them. Yet we live in a society where we are increasingly becoming isolated from each other. Whereas Americans once lived in small communities among people they had known all their lives, many of us now have to go to work for social contact. So if blue-collar, middle-age white people are suffering despair, my guess is that they are dying from social isolation and loneliness. We usually don’t form the same kind of relationships with the people at work that we form with family and neighbors, but all our families are scattered across the country, and our neighbors work at different places. On most days, we cannot even find them at home.
So what about that question? Does the declining life expectancy of the American people indicate mounting frustration and brewing anger? There is no easy answer. When people start experiencing enough despair to harm themselves, we can rightly say they are getting desperate. That certainly indicates frustration.
How do people react to unrelenting frustration, to extreme stress? Well, we don’t all react the same way. Some people despair and turn their violence inward. Others get angry. Instead of blaming and destroying themselves, they blame others. Is that happening? All we can say for certain about America’s declining life expectancy is that something is not right.