A report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that for the first time ever recorded, the mortality rate of middle-age whites in the U.S. has been increasing the last two decades. “After 1998, other rich countries’ mortality rates continued to decline by 2% a year. In contrast, US white non-Hispanic mortality rose by half a percent a year. No other rich country saw a similar turnaround. The change in all-cause mortality for white non-Hispanics 45–54 is largely accounted for by an increasing death rate from external causes, mostly increases in drug and alcohol poisonings and in suicide.”
In an effort to explain these observations, the researchers wrote, “Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population.”
But to take these findings one step further, why the stress? I’ll take this one step further than the authors. Americans are more productive, but several studies have concluded that wages have been stagnant because the healthcare industry has sucked those gains from the non-healthcare economy (see Rand Corporation study and a study by Young and DeVoe as two examples).
I’m afraid that this multi-step connection is too complex for simple soundbites to summarize, therefore the media will be less inclined to report on it and the politicians will be less likely to feel an imperative to actually do something to meaningfully lower healthcare costs. I hope I’m wrong.