Tag Archives: Life Expectancy

mar. 17, 2020 Deaths Of DEspair

On March 17, 2020 NPR’s Jim Zarroli  reported “‘Deaths Of Despair’ Examines The Steady Erosion Of U.S. Working-Class Life” The 20th century was an era of rapid and unprecedented improvement in public health all over the world.  

In the United States alone, a person born in 1900 could expect to live to 49; by 2000, that person’s great grandchildren were likely to see their 77th birthdays. Reaching old age is no longer an anomaly, and that is true for people of every race, ethnicity and social class.  

Around 2000, however, came a stark and dramatic reversal of that trend, one documented in the disturbing book Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, by the husband-and-wife team of Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who won the 2015 Nobel Prize for Economics. For white Americans between 45 and 54, average life expectancy was no longer increasing; in fact, it was actually declining — in a pattern seen almost nowhere else on Earth. If increases in life expectancy had continued at the same rate, some 600,000 more Americans would now be alive, Case and Deaton write.

This reversal has come almost entirely among white Americans without a four-year college degree, who make up 38 percent of the U.S. working-age population. “Something is making life worse, especially for less educated whites,” Case and Deaton write.  

Much of the decline stems from higher rates of suicide, opioid overdoses and alcohol-related illnesses — the “deaths of despair” that Case and Deaton refer to. Americans “are drinking themselves to death, or poisoning themselves with drugs, or shooting or hanging themselves.”

They’re also no longer making progress against heart disease, due to higher rates of obesity and tobacco use. While U.S. smoking rates have declined precipitously over the years, they remain stubbornly high in states such as Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee. Smoking rates are actually rising among middle-aged white women who lack a Bachelor’s degree.  The America that Case and Deaton write about is an intensely class-bound place, where the less-educated experience higher rates of severe mental disease, have more trouble with the “instrumental activities of daily life,” such as walking, and report more pain. Chronic pain is now more common among the middle-aged than the elderly, they write.  

By contrast, Americans with a Bachelor’s degree live longer, enjoy more stable families, report happier lives and abuse opioids and alcohol less often. They even vote more. Once, suicide was more common among the educated; today, the reverse is true.  

Case and Deaton don’t shy away from the likely cause of this public-health scandal: The collapse of the steady, decently paid manufacturing jobs that once gave meaning and purpose to working-class life. 

They write:  “Destroy work and, in the end, working-class life cannot survive. It is the loss of meaning, of dignity, of pride, and of self-respect that comes with the loss of marriage and of community that brings on despair, not just or even primarily the loss of money.” 

Men without good jobs make lousy husbands and poor fathers. “They may have children from a series of relationships, some or none of whom they know and some of whom are living with other men. Such fractured and fragile relationships bring little daily joy or comfort and do little to assure middle-aged men that they are living a good life,” Case and Deaton write.  

In such a world, marriages break up, and social bonds fray. 

The institutions that once provided ballast to working-class life — unions and mainstream churches — have proven largely ineffectual against the tectonic forces now reshaping the global economy.  

Case and Deaton do a great job making the case that something has gone grievously wrong. The solutions they propose, such as repairing the U.S. safety net and overhauling the broken U.S. health-care system, are worthy ones, but somehow don’t feel up to addressing the gargantuan social problems they spell out so well.  

Something more will be needed to address the steady erosion of working-class life, with all the heartbreak and despair it’s engendered.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 8, 2019 Blumbers

Teen Decade: Longevity

On December 3, 2019 NPR Morning Edition’s David Greene reported “Life Expectancy Study Jolts Assumptions Made About Life In America.” He talked about a Journal of the American Medical Association study  by Dr. Steven Woolf that says U.S. life expectancy is declining, and is not keeping pace with other wealthy countries. He looked at life expectancy, mortality across the United States between 1959 and 2017. Many will not live long enough to retire.

“In fact, our analysis intentionally looked at the data for all 50 states to try to locate where in the country this was happening the most. And what we found was that the increase was largest in the industrial Midwest, central Appalachia and northern New England but particularly in the Ohio Valley. That was like ground zero for this phenomenon. We found, for example, that of all the excess deaths that occur in the United States due to this increase in mortality, one-third of them occurred in four states – Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana. Those four states accounted for one-third of the excess deaths between 2010 and 2017.”

“But one very attractive explanation is the economy. This is the Rust Belt and the area where – at the time when this decline began, the 1980s and ’90s, is when we saw a major transformation in the economy, the loss of manufacturing jobs, coal mines closing, steel mills closing and families and communities exposed to many years of economic stresses. And we think they’re taking their toll on folks’ health.”

Woolf closed by saying “… we need to change our policy priorities in this country and focus more on improving the social and economic conditions for the middle class if we’re going to see a reversal to this trend.”

On December 9, 2019 NPR Morning Edition’s Jason Beaubien reported “There’s A New Kind Of Inequality. And It’s Not About Income” about the the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report. “Achim Steiner, the UNDP administrator, sums up the problem this way: “an increasing number of young people are educated, connected and stuck with no ladder of choices to move up.””

“What people perhaps 30, 40 years ago were led to believe and often saw around them,” Steiner says, “was that if you worked hard, you could escape poverty.” Yet in many countries today, he says upward social mobility is “simply not occurring” anymore.”

“UNDP’s Pedro Conceição, who oversees the Human Development Report, says their research shows that these global inequities are having huge impacts on individual lives.”

“If we look at what happened to a child born in the year 2000 in a low human development country compared to a child born in a very high human development country, there’s a 17% probability that the child [from the low development country] is not alive today, 20 years after she was born,” Conceição says. “While in a very high human development country, there’s only a 1% chance that the child is not alive today.”

Ultimately it is still about money. If you were born in a rich place twenty years ago, you not only get to grow up but go to college. Meanwhile poor people are seventeen times more likely to die. People are demonstrating around the world because they need money for education, housing and food to live.

“Inequalities in human development remain high and widespread,” he notes.

On a similar note, there is a new film called Dark Water starring Mark Ruffalo. It is about the true story of Cincinnati lawyer Robert Bilott who battled DuPont over toxic water pollution in West Virginia.

Let us make life less stressful for each other. People should live long enough to have a future. I guess there is something to that live long and prosper thing after all.

Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Oct. 5, 2017 Life Expectancy

On Oct. 5, 2017 NPR’s Emily Sohn reported “People Are Living Longer In Places You Wouldn’t Expect” Christopher Murray, of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health talked about the new study. “Since 1970, he says, worldwide life expectancy has increased by 14 years, from 58 to 72. And since 1990, the proportion of children who die before their fifth birthday has dropped from nine percent to four percent.”

Murray said in the country of Niger “To keep its little kids alive, the government has set ambitious goals, including a policy instituted in 2006 that offers free health care to women and children. There’s also a national program to train more community health workers. As a result, more children are vaccinated for diseases and treated for major childhood killers like diarrhea.” So if you have free health care, you live longer?

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.