Why are Americans Dying Younger?

Life Expectancy in the U.S. has fallen for the last three years in a row, which is yet further supporting evidence that the United States might actually be a less developed country.

The decline is driven by the increasing death rates in young Americans, aged between 25 to 64, which the main causes of death being ‘deaths of despair’ – alcohol and drug related deaths, suicides, obesity and drugs linked to chronic stress.

Interestingly the high death rates cut across class, gender and ethnic lines, and all regions of the United States.

Why does America have such a high mid-life mortality rate?

America has one of the highest mid-life mortality rates of high income countries, despite spending more on heath care than most other countries.

The statistics tell a depressing tale – mortality from drug overdoses has increased by around 400% since the late 1990s and Obesity rates have increased dramatically too – men now way on average 30 pounds more than they did 50 years ago.

In short, the causes of high mid life mortality are that people are just making destructive life choices and choosing not to take care of themselves, with increasing numbers of people self-medicating with alcohol, drugs (both illegal and legal) and junk-food.

There are number of possible deeper economic and social explanations as to the increasing mid-life death rate in America – we could apply Strain Theory – it could be that the people making the above choices are experiencing a sense of ‘anomie’ – these are people just working to survive with no obvious chance of ‘succeeding’.

It could also be that America is one of the most unequal countries on earth – and while many struggle to survive, they see daily success stories on the media, which enhances the sense of relative deprivation and their own failure.

Or these people self-medicating may be successful in some ways – have successful careers, but they’ve sacrificed their families because of it, so these could be deaths due to to loneliness or social isolation.

Whatever the causes, I’m just glad I don’t live in the US!

Find out more:

If you want to find out more, read this November 2019 article from The Washington Post.

Finally, don’t forget the useful application of this material to the demography section of the families and household module!

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