Via The New York Times: Life Expectancy for White Americans Drops Slightly; Analysts Cite Drug Overdoses. Excerpt:
Life expectancy declined slightly for white Americans in 2014, according to new federal data, a troubling sign that distress among younger and middle-age whites who are dying at ever-higher rates from drug overdoses is lowering average life spans for the white population as a whole.
The new federal data, drawn from all deaths recorded in the country in 2014, showed that life expectancy for whites dropped to 78.8 years in 2014 from 78.9 in 2013. Men and women had declines, but because of statistical rounding, the decline did not appear as sharp among men.
Life expectancy for women fell to 81.1 in 2014 from 81.2 in 2013. The average life span for men also fell, but not enough to sink below 76.5 years, their life expectancy in 2013.
“The increase in death in this segment of the population was great enough to affect life expectancy at birth for the whole group,” said Elizabeth Arias, the statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics who analyzed the data, referring to whites from their mid-20s to their mid-50s. “That is very unusual.”
Dr. Arias, who is preparing a larger study of mortality trends over the past 15 years, said drug overdoses, liver disease and suicide were the main drivers of the gloomy trends among whites in recent years, a pattern also found by other researchers.
Life expectancy for whites had been rising for decades, but it has stagnated in recent years. It inched up in 2010 and 2011, and was flat in 2012 and 2013.
Recent research has documented surprising increases in death rates among less educated whites. Last year, a paper by Anne Case and Angus Deaton documented rising death rates among middle-age white Americans, particularly those with no more than a high school education. Other research has found rising rates among younger whites.
The pattern had puzzled demographers, but the recent analyses have pointed to suffering and anxiety among working-class whites.
I discussed the Case and Deaton report in a Tyee article late last year. It appears to confirm the arguments of public health experts who find a close relationship between life expectancy (and general morbidity) and the width of the income gap in any given society.