Middle-aged, white Americans’ death rate is up. Alcohol and drugs are to blame.

As Gina Kolata reported, the death rate for middle-aged, white Americans has risen in the last 15 years or so, while that of many other groups here and in other wealthy nations fell. The rising death rates are concentrated in less educated, middle-aged whites.

That finding was reported Monday by two Princeton economists, Angus Deaton, who last month won the 2015 Nobel Memorial Prize in for Economic Science, and Anne Case. Analyzing health and mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from other sources, they concluded that rising annual death rates among this group are being driven not by the big killers like heart disease and diabetes but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse: alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.

The original study is here.

(Here on TIE, we’ve posted before about rising mortality rates for women in certain counties, for white women without a high school diploma, and for white men and women with fewer years of education. We’ve also posted about a source of bias that could explain some or all of the phenomenon.)

And, here’s your periodic reminder that, at the moment, Medicaid and Medicare records pertaining to substance use disorder are not included in certain research files, hampering our ability to study these issues.

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