The Politics of Mortality

JAMA recently published a paper about the increase in mortality among 25-64 year olds in the U.S.–and it’s not just for white people anymore! Snark aside, it’s not good (boldface mine):

Despite spending more on health care than any other country, the United States has seen increasing mortality and falling life expectancy for people age 25 to 64, who should be in the prime of their lives. In contrast, other wealthy nations have generally experienced continued progress in extending longevity. Although earlier research emphasized rising mortality among non-Hispanic whites in the United States, the broad trend detailed in this study cuts across gender, racial and ethnic lines. By age group, the highest relative jump in death rates from 2010 to 2017 — 29 percent — has been among people age 25 to 34.

It’s really not good out there (boldface mine):

According to the new study, the death rate from 2010 to 2017 for all causes among people ages 25 to 64 increased from 328.5 deaths per 100,000 people to 348.2 deaths per 100,000. It was clear statistically by 2014 that it was not just whites who were affected, but all racial and ethnic groups and that the main causes were drug overdoses, alcohol and suicides.

The fact that it’s so expansive and involves so many causes of death — it’s saying that there’s something broader going on in our country,” said Ellen R. Meara, a professor of health policy at Dartmouth College. “This no longer limited to middle-aged whites.”

The states with the greatest relative increases in death rates among young and middle-aged adults were New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, West Virginia and Ohio.

Dr. Woolf said one of the findings showed that the excess deaths were highly concentrated geographically, with fully a third of them in just four states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana.

“What’s not lost on us is what is going on in those states,” he said. “The history of when this health trend started happens to coincide with when these economic shifts began — the loss of manufacturing jobs and closure of steel mills and auto plants.”

As some asshole with a blog recently noted, this increase in mortality is a political problem–shitheads like Matthew Yglesias can snark all they want about ‘economic anxiety’, but that anxiety is killing people. And drove some of them to either stay home or even vote Trump.

What struck me about the JAMA paper was a table in the supplemental materials (always read the entire paper, kids!):


The first few years of Obama’s presidency, we saw a marked decline in mortality among most age groups. Then in 2014 and 2015, depending on the group, mortality increased, often dramatically, with younger GenXers and millenials getting hammered DUE TO ALL THE AVOCADO TOAST, along with younger Boomers. If you’re the party in power (sort of, anyway), you don’t want more people dying as you approach the election, especially if they’re dying in battleground states. Hard to win: it makes people a lot less hopey, and a lot more angry changey.

This is why I have a hard time figuring out whether Trump’s economy is good. If mortality has dropped, I think Il Trumpe can count the economy in his favor (not saying he’s responsible, but he’ll get the credit for it). If these groups are still doing poorly or even worse, then I think he’s in a lot of trouble.

One more point: at some point, many Democrats are going to have to face the reality that Obama did some good things on public health (antimicrobial resistance was taken seriously for the first time), this rise in mortality, along with the opiate crisis and the vaping crisis (which will kill people down the road, just not right now) were real public health failures. And it wasn’t the policies pushed by the Dirty Fucking Hippies who led us to these failures either.

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1 Response to The Politics of Mortality

  1. Bern says:

    “they’re dying in battleground states”
    Never saw that one coming…

    Dying on battlegrounds is just another activity the Swamp Thang scorns; he doesn’t seem concerned about it, so neither should we…

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