America’s Declining Well-Being, Health, and Life Expectancy

Abstract

Although recent declines in life expectancy among non-Hispanic Whites, coined “deaths of despair,” grabbed the headlines of most major media outlets, this is neither a recent problem nor is it confined to Whites. The decline in America’s health has been described in the public health literature for decades and has long been hypothesized to be attributable to an array of worsening psychosocial problems that are not specific to Whites.  To test some of the dominant hypotheses, we show how various measures of despair have been increasing in the United States since 1980 and how these trends relate to changes in health and longevity. We show that mortality increases among Whites caused by the opioid epidemic come on the heels of the crack and HIV syndemic among Blacks. Both occurred on top of already higher mortality rates among all Americans relative to people in other nations, and both occurred among declines in measures of well-being.  We believe that the attention given to Whites is distracting researchers and policymakers from much more serious, longer-term structural problems that affect all Americans. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print September 25, 2018: e1–e6. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304585)

Interesting AJPH analysis which can be accessed at this link.

The article has a link to the complete analysis in PDF.

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Thought for Today 02.28.18

In science, unlike politics, there is value in saying, “I don’t know,” or “We don’t really know, but it might be this,” or “Actually, what I believed last year is no longer likely correct.” Once you actually embrace this notion—that you can’t know everything, that facts have a half-life, and that humility is a blessing more than a curse when it comes to trying to understand the natural laws of our universe—you become obsessed with research.

Peter Attia MD

Thought for Today 09.09.17

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

– Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”

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