For some time, we have understood that prime-working-age Americans (20 to 55) are more frequently dying younger, although the scale and nature of the problem have remained somewhat of a mystery. There has been increased speculation from the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) confirming a downtrend in American life expectancy, which could be due to soaring wealth inequality and an out of control opioid epidemic. However, some experts believe there is much more to this troubling story, as structural decay is becoming more evident in America’s middle class.
A new study published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association digs beneath the American heartland and identifies which states are encountering the highest premature deaths among younger generations, and why. As per The Atlantic, the study reveals a “profound disparity among the states” when it comes to “life expectancy.”
Since 1990, researchers identified 21 states that have encountered an increase in the death rate among prime-working-age Americans. The study details the top five states – Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wyoming, which the odds of early death increased by 10 percent in that timeframe. Meanwhile, California and New York had a lower probability of premature deaths in the same period. Researchers note the specific risk factors, such as high body mass index (BMI), alcohol, opioids, suicide, and kidney disease were the leading factors in early deaths.
The Atlantic points out the ten states with the highest probability of dying young:
“In 2016, the 10 states with the highest probability of premature death among 20- to 55-year-olds were West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arkansas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Tennessee, and South Carolina.”
Meanwhile, here the states with the lowest probability of premature death:
“The 10 states with lowest probability of premature death among this age group were Minnesota, California, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Hawaii.”
Ali Mokdad, a University of Washington epidemiologist who co-wrote the study, said in a statement, “Overall the nation and some of our states are falling behind other, less developed countries.”
“The strain on America’s health resources is getting worse, and the need for prevention services and greater access to and quality of medical care is increasing,” he added.
While The Atlantic links the idea “Americans are self-medicating their misery with alcohol and drugs,” there is also reason to believe that poor diet is a significant factor in premature death. Alzheimer’s disease and opioids have become an increasing cause of death and disability, but poor diet still maintains the number one slot for the leading cause of death, followed by tobacco use and high blood pressure.
“To an increasing degree, overweight, obesity, and sugary diets are driving up health-care costs and are costing Americans years of healthy life,” said the University of Washington’s Chris Murray, who also authored the study, in a statement. “They are undermining progress toward better health.”
As the Washington Post notes, American exceptionalism is dying:
“But by 2015 that gap had flipped. The average American born that year could expect to live a little less than 79 years, while the typical baby born in an OECD country had an expected lifespan of nearly 81 years.
Americans are dying young, in part, because of deliberate policy choices we’ve made over the decades: rejecting single-payer health care. Cutting taxes for the rich. Shunning universal basic income. Abandoning universal child care.
While America helplessly slides into an irreversible terminal decline, you must wonder what this all means to me… apart from structural deterioration of the younger generation — forcing “your” life expectancy to decline for two consecutive years, well the only thing that seems to matter these days in the tweets by President Trump… The Dow… the last time that US life expectancy dropped for two straight years, there were years of stock market declines…
American exceptionalism is dead, the empire is cracking, and as the Journal of the American Medical Association study explains: Americans are increasingly dying younger.