STATES CHRONICLE – New study documents the decline of white, middle-aged Americans and the deteriorating health among this segment of the population in recent years. Princeton scientists Anne Case and Angus Deaton chronicle the biggest shift in mortality rates since the AIDS epidemic, concerning mostly less educated middle-aged white Americans.
According to the research conducted during the study, predominant factors in the rise of the death rate among this segment of the population were an increase in cases of suicide as well as drug addiction. As a consequence, mortality rates for middle-aged white Americans have been on the rise since 1999 and this phenomenon has been taking place while death rates were actually decreasing in other groups within the nation as well as in other countries.
While the findings may seem shocking, they fall into a pattern that has already been established by previous studies in the same field, as there have been several studies pointing out that the life expectancy for whites that are less educated has been lowering in America.
The question that puzzles many social scientists is why this is happening, as the rising mortality in this segment of the population has turned out to only happen under these circumstances in America. However, despite many considering the existing social programs to be responsible for creating a culture of dependency, the evidence shows that this is not the main cause for the problem. The same can be said for the recent fall of traditional values.
The study shows that the rising mortality rates are only a problem in the U.S. despite the country having a less prominent welfare state and a much stronger connection to traditional religion than most of the other advanced countries. Research also shows that life expectancy is on the rise in areas like California, where traditional values are weak and social benefits are the highest and that it is actually stagnating or declining in the Bible Belt.
The study has not managed to reach a definite conclusion about the economic impact on the death rate either. Hispanic Americans, also studied during this research project, were found to be considerably poorer than whites but to have much lower mortality rates. Deaton suggests that middle-aged whites may have expected to fare better and may have been hit harder by the economic problems they encountered.
It may be that their upbringing, influenced by the idealistic American Dream, may have in fact prepared them for a different standard of living that that which they now have. This could have caused them to cope badly with the failure of that ideal materializing in their lives.
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