The epidemic of despair in white, working-class America, now revealed

0926whiteout04

What you once may have sensed has now been documented: Something has gone dramatically and tragically amiss with white working-class America.

Among middle-aged white Americans with a high school degree or less, the death rate from drug and alcohol overdoses quadrupled in the 14-year period between 1999 and 2013. The suicide rate in that group rose by a heartbreaking 81 percent. Death by diseases associated with alcohol abuse rose by 50 percent. That’s an awful lot of pain and tragedy.

And in an era when the overall death rate for every other demographic group fell significantly, the death rate among working-class, middle-aged white Americans reversed itself and instead jumped by a magnitude seldom seen in modern times. Anne Case and Angus Deaton, the authors of a newly published study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, estimate that almost half a million additional people in that group have died as a consequence.

Half a million additional dead over a 14-year period — that is an epidemic. According to Case and Deaton, in scale it is “comparable to lives lost in the U.S. AIDS epidemic through mid-2015,” which is a much longer time frame.¹
WhiteAmBut the impact is not measured in death rates alone, because Americans in this demographic group have suffered a significant decline in mental and physical well-being as well. According to the Case-Deaton study, white middle-aged Americans report suffering much more physical pain and psychological distress than earlier generations, and the percentage who report that health problems prevent them from working doubled between 1999 and 2013, which suggests why enrollment in the Social Security disability program has jumped.

So let’s move from the hard science to an exploration of possible causes, where by necessity we are on less stable ground. Given the nature of this epidemic, we can’t go looking for the equivalent of the virus that we now know causes AIDS. We have to ask: What has happened to white working-class Americans in the time frame at issue that might account for such an extraordinary change not just in their lifespans but in the quality of life as well?

That question bring us inevitably into economics, and from there into politics. During the time frame in question, earnings for those with a high school diploma or less have fallen significantly thanks to a combination of technology and overseas competition. Manufacturing jobs have been replaced by lower-paying service jobs. Jobs that require no more than a high school degree and that also pay a decent wage and provide health insurance have all but vanished, as have the pensions that once gave working-class Americans cause to hope for easier days to come.

In short, it is hard not to see a historic leap in drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide as an epidemic born of hopelessness.

In our political debate, we are wrangling over the basic question of how to respond to an economy that both major parties now acknowledge has changed in fundamental ways. Some argue that in the face of such change, it is a fiscal and moral imperative to reduce spending on programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, housing, job training, day care and tuition assistance. They believe that social programs designed to alleviate economic stress have instead undercut our national work ethic, producing a “culture of dependency”.  And I suppose you could try to argue that this alleged growth in government dependency is somehow responsible for the despair behind a fourfold increase in death by drug and alcohol overdose, or an 81 percent increase in suicide.

But there’s a fatal flaw in that theory. As Case and Deaton point out, this epidemic is a purely American phenomenon. Similar populations in other Western industrialized countries have suffered similar or even greater economic setbacks, “yet none have had the same mortality experience.” (Russia — neither Western nor industrialized — would be the exception regarding mortality, and again unmitigated economic distress may be the common factor.) In all of those other Western countries, the social safety net is considerably more substantial than it is here in the United States. That would seem to argue that programs that enhance a sense of economic security and opportunity are useful in avoiding the desperation that is the root problem here.

More specifically, in the face of this epidemic, do we continue to raise the Social Security retirement age, putting that reward even further out of reach as some now advocate? What effect is that likely to have? And do we address this health crisis by repealing programs that offer health insurance to working-class Americans of all ages, people who would otherwise have no financial means of attaining it? Is that really the direction that logic dictates?

And overall, do we continue to pretend that this once-hidden despair is a product of individual shortcomings, or something reassuringly confined to a particular demographic group, rather than something born of a despair shared by many?

———————-

¹ As a result of these changes, the mortality rate for middle-aged white Americans with a high school degree or less (736 deaths annually per 100,000) is now four times that for white Americans with a college degree (178 deaths per 100,000). It is also significantly higher than for black (582 per 100,000) and Hispanic Americans (270 per 100,000) in the same age group. I can’t yet find breakdowns for those last two groups by education.

Reader Comments 0

1538 comments
M H Smith
M H Smith

Just curious... if Healthcare could be funded - completely(all $3trillion plus of it per year) – by imposing a “user fee” of say around $5 per 10 Gigibytes of Internet data transfer or possibly $2 per-10 gig of usage, would you vote in favor of it? 



Or possibly as low as somewhere between a dime to fifty cents for every 10 gigibytes of data usage? 

RantNRave
RantNRave

"Wake Up Everybody"


Wake up everybody, no more sleepin' in bed
No more backward thinkin' time for thinkin' ahead
The world has changed so very much from what it used to be
So there is so much hatred war an' poverty

Wake up all the teachers, time to teach a new way
Maybe then they'll listen to whatcha have to say
'Cause they're the ones who's coming up and the world is in their hands
When you teach the children, teach 'em the very best you can

The world won't get no better
If we just let it be
The world won't get no better
We gotta change it, yeah, just you and me

Wake up all the doctors, make the ol' people well
They're the ones who suffer an' who catch all the hell
But they don't have so very long before the judgment day
So won'tcha make them happy before they pass away?

Wake up all the builders, time to build a new land
I know we can do it if we all lend a hand
The only thing we have to do is put it in our mind
Surely things will work out, they do it every time

The world won't get no better
If we just let it be
The world won't get no better
We gotta change it, yeah, just you and me


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NfCZEmLJ1Y

RantNRave
RantNRave

This is WORTH repeating.............for you cons who have your head in the SAND!


Something has gone DRAMATICALLY and TRAGICALLY AMISS with white working-class America.


Among middle-aged white Americans with a high school degree or less, the death rate from drug and alcohol overdoses QUADRUPLED in the 14-year period between 1999 and 2013. The suicide rate in that group ROSE by a HEARTBREAKING 81 percent. Death by diseases associated with alcohol abuse rose by 50 percent. That’s an awful lot of pain and tragedy.


Operative words:


DEATH RATE


SUICIDE RATE


QUADRUPLED 


ROSE



ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

@RantNRave

I will also note that Techwood Homes in Atlanta was the nation's first public housing project, opened in 1935 after the Depression. It was whites-only until 1968, and gave many families a hands-up in times of need. I won't get into all of the subsequent policy changes and fallout, but suffice it to say that poor whites did in the past accept assistance in times of need without shame, and the public was willing to provide it.

Contemporary conservative media has made the notion of public assistance shameful and has tried to portray it as a "new" thing.

ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

@RantNRave

Yes, I have a cousin who was part of that statistic. High school graduate (barely), long history of not keeping a job for very long. Chronic depression, no employer sponsored health insurance. Lived his last years on disability insurance for a "nervous condition", in a trailer on his mom's property. Took his own life a few years ago at 50. 

His mom was able to drop out of high school and get a job at the mill. And while she lost two fingers in a machinery accident, she kept working and received a pension that kept her from starving. She also received Medicare for her emphysema. Married twice, btw.

The mill closed years ago. The town that the mill owners originally built there is now populated by people who have far fewer opportunities.

I understand the despair. Unfortunately, these folks are being fed a line that their troubles are due to feckless "welfare recipients" who they are told are getting free checks for sitting on their butts therefore taking away from their opportunities, and illegal immigrants (and never mind the fact that "disability" is welfare). That's where they channel their anger, and that's exactly where some conservative politicians seek to direct it.

My cousin needed mental health services. And while yes, some of this is due to an evolving economy, there is a generation stuck in that divide. Things were different back when they decided not to go to college or to drop out of high school. 

RantNRave
RantNRave

"You represent the left splendidly. Don't ever stop."


@~moonbat_betty~ 


Don't get so HIGH and MIGHTY Bat.............


Because you represent the white, working-class in America


who are dying at a higher rate because your own Party


has thrown you under the bus !


Do you know the meaning of E-P-I-D-E-M-I-C???


Do you C-A-R-E???

honested
honested

I make a comment relative to the topic of the thread and the wrong wing loons wander off into 'genocide'.


Is there some lunatic notion that once wrong-wing ideology has burned itself out that somehow they think it will be missed?

SimpleTruths
SimpleTruths

@honested "I make a comment relative to the topic of the thread and the wrong wing loons wander off into 'genocide'"

"I made a comment celebrating the death of a group of people.  And I got called on it."

Fixed your typo.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

A word of truth from a man many of jay's liberals claimed to respect. A man whom they could've supported, had Hillary not been forced upon them.

Forty years ago, as the United States experienced the civil rights movement, the supposed monolith of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant dominance served as the whipping post for almost every debate about power and status in America. After a full generation of such debate, WASP elites have fallen by the wayside and a plethora of government-enforced diversity policies have marginalized many white workers. The time has come to cease the false arguments and allow every American the benefit of a fair chance at the future.

I have dedicated my political career to bringing fairness to America's economic system and to our work force, regardless of what people look like or where they may worship. Unfortunately, present-day diversity programs work against that notion, having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703724104575379630952309408

Racist or truth teller? 


_GodlessHeathen_
_GodlessHeathen_

So we have a poster calling for the genocide of anyone that doesn't agree with him politically.

Nice.

honested
honested

@_GodlessHeathen_ 

Who is calling for 'genocide'.

Just calling for elimination of anti-human ideology.

Do you comprehend the difference?

breckenridge
breckenridge

Dear Vlad Putin,


Congratulations! You've now become the #1 enemy of ISIS and the rest of the terrorists nut-balls in the region.  You set a goal to wrestle that title away from the evil imperialists dogs blah blah blah of the good ol' US of A, and .........you succeeded! Well done Vlad. You the man!


Happy Holidays,


Breck

td1234
td1234

"Virginia Republicans managed to keep the majority of the state senate Tuesday night.

Despite tons of money flowing to Democratic candidates from outside gun control organizations funded by Michael Bloomberg, Virginia Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe may have to put his plans of pushing firearm restrictions through the legislature on the back burner.

Virginia Republicans also held onto the state’s lower chamber, the House of Delegates.

“I need one seat to get control of the Senate and we can pass common sense gun laws,” McAuliffe  pleaded to Virginia voters Monday night on MSNBC’s “Hardball.”



Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2015/11/03/virgina-gop-staves-off-gun-control-campaign-maintains-control-of-state-senate/#ixzz3qXvT4DQN

td1234
td1234

@Paul42 If that was all the governor was arguing for then you might have a point. 


As Governor, Terry will support mainstream and majority supported gun control measures like universal background checks, limiting the size of magazines, and a return to the 1-gun-per-month rule. " 


He also talked about magazine size and "assault weapons" 



honested
honested

@td1234 

The wrong-wingers in Virginia hit themselves over the head again.

They must just like the pain.

Paul42
Paul42

@td1234

So you favor letting people sell guns to strangers without a background check, is that correct,  td?

SimpleTruths
SimpleTruths

 "Several hours into the day and a few more cons have slipped into dirtnapdom.  The whole world feels lighter."

Another stellar example of liberal "tolerance".

Peachs
Peachs

more deaths by suicide than Iraq, abortion, and the other half of your revolution is going out with old age, being replaced by kids who don't buy the crap, don't need to stop it, you are stopping yourself killing yourself, might be a relic already.  

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Peachs - there are enough of us still around to officially reject the LIberal agenda.

See post immediately below if you doubt it.

St Simons he-ne-ha
St Simons he-ne-ha

i'm an ollld hippie & I dont know what to do, should i hang on to the old, should i grab onto the new...

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

From Coast to Coast Conservatives Score Huge Victories in Elections 


https://www.washingtonpost.com/


So what you say?


It means on the outside chance the Nation votes in Hillary as president, they will be voting in for more gridlock as Conservatives dig in and oppose the Liberal agenda with their overwhelming majorities in states and Congress.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@honested @JohnnyReb - quality of life is like happiness.

Each of us are responsible for making our own.

Libs don't get that and expect someone else to hand them a happier life.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Hedley_Lammar @JohnnyReb @honested - nah

It's the overdriving theme of almost everything Liberal.

Somebody else has something, I don't, they should give me some.

And then of course there is the crybaby bleeding heart in all of it.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@JohnnyReb @Hedley_Lammar @honested nah

It's the overriding theme of almost everything Liberal.


No it really isn't. Its the overriding theme of what conservatives think liberals are about


Big difference. 


I'm a liberal. I don't want a damn thing from you. 

td1234
td1234

@honested Quality of life can only be solved by the individual and not by the government. 

honested
honested

@JohnnyReb 

I say what I said earlier.

When will they demonstrate any ability to improve the quality of life and reduce costs along the way?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@td1234 @honested Tell that to all the veterans with college educations because of the GI Bill


I could go on and on but you still wouldn't get it.