Friday, April 22, 2016

"Life Expectancy Declines for White Americans": But its all their own fault

American longevity is declining:
Betsy McKay, (2016, April 20). Life Expectancy Declines for White Americans. The Wall Street Journal, A3.

"Life expectancy fell for the US white population in 2014 and remained flat for all population groups combined, according to data released Wednessday by the Centers for Disease Controland Prevention, showing how increases in death rates from suicides, drug overdoses, and related causes are threatening an important measure of health and prosperity."
White Americans born in 2014 are expected to live to 78.8 years, as compared to 78.9 years for those born in 2013.

Life expectancy for non-Hispanic white men also fell, although less than the drop in life expectancy experienced by non-Hispanic white women. The decline in these group's life expectancy has been attributed to suicide, alcohol, abuse and chronic liver disease.

The article states "In the U.S., life expectancy overall has been stagnant at 78.8 years since 2012."

The article is representative of a discourse that explains away decreasing life expectancy with an account of down-trodden alcoholics and drug addicts who accelerate their demise with their bad habits.

I do not discount that alcoholism, drug addiction, and abuse are decreasing life expectancy, but what I do challenge is the implicit construction of these symptoms as EXCLUSIVE and causative agents in their own right.

Notice in the article below published in 2015 that PAIN was a significant contributing factor to the substance abuse:
Gina Kolata, Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds, The New York Times, November 2, 2015,

Something startling is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.
That finding was reported Monday by two Princeton economists, Angus Deaton, who last month won the 2015 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, and Anne Case

Dr. Case, investigating indicators of poor health, discovered that middle-aged people, unlike the young and unlike the elderly, were reporting more pain in recent years than in the past. A third in this group reported they had chronic joint pain over the years 2011 to 2013, and one in seven said they had sciatica. Those with the least education reported the most pain and the worst general health...

...With the pain and mental distress data, Dr. Deaton said, “we had the two halves of the story.” Increases in mortality rates in middle-aged whites rose in parallel with their increasing reports of pain, poor health and distress, he explained. They provided a rationale for the increase in deaths from substance abuse and suicides.
What is causing the chronic pain?

I think the solution is not to focus exclusively on substance abuse but rather to address the chronic psychological and bodily pain that is probably a major factor driving substance abuse.

Neurological disorders such as autism, migraines, Parkinsons, and Alzheimers have increased in frequency. There are clearly environmental contributions. Increased psychological pain is a symptom of the pathology of our civilization and increased neurological pain can result from both psychological and physical stressors.

Substance abuse, in my opinion, is the symptom that exacerbates the condition, not the exclusive cause.

The situation reminds me of the collapsing death rate after Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union. The collapse in longevity was primarily attributed to alcoholism with no mention of that plant's toxic legacy.

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