Two years ago, Princeton professors Angus Deaton and Anne Case noticed a trend in which mortality rates were declining in most western countries, but increasing among white middle-aged Americans.
This population of working class Americans, without college degrees, experience “deaths of despair” — a term Deaton and Case used to describe the underlying factors behind the increasing mortality. The opioid epidemic was a factor, but so were the lack of good jobs, marriage breakups, family dysfunction, social isolation and obesity.
Earlier this morning on Radio Times, Marty Moss-Coane asked the two Princeton professors if the recent recession set white working class America back.
“We were expecting to see that in the data, but instead what we see is this slow steady rise in these deaths in despair,” Case said. “It probably was happening before the 1990s.”
“People don’t believe that deaths tend to go up in good times economically and go down in bad times,” Deaton added.
“A lot of these extra deaths in good times are among the elderly because it’s harder for nursing homes where they’re looking after old people to hold labor because there so much other good jobs for them.”
Listen to the full conversation on Radio Times.