top of page

WA PO/Seattle Times: Young Americans dying at "alarming rates"

Nov 26, 2019, Seattle Times: ‘There’s something terribly wrong’: Americans are dying young at alarming rates Death rates from suicide, drug overdoses, liver disease and dozens of other causes have been rising over the past decade for young and middle-aged adults, driving down overall life expectancy in the United States for three consecutive years, according to a strikingly bleak study published Tuesday that looked at the past six decades of mortality data. The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), was immediately hailed by outside researchers for its comprehensive treatment of a still-enigmatic trend: the reversal of historical patterns in longevity. The United States, despite massive expenditures on health care, has seen increasing mortality and falling life expectancy for people ages 25 to 64, who should be in the prime of their lives, while other wealthy nations have generally experienced continued progress in extending longevity. Although earlier research emphasized rising mortality among non-Hispanic whites, 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% — has been among people ages 25 to 34…. He said many factors are at play. The opioid epidemic is a major driver of the worrisome numbers but far from the sole cause. The study found that improvements in life expectancy, largely because of lower rates of infant mortality, began to slowdown in the 1980s, long before the opioid epidemic became a national tragedy. The 33,000 excess deaths are an estimate based on the number of all-cause midlife deaths from 2010 to 2017 that would be expected if mortality was unchanged vs. the number of deaths actually recorded by medical examiners. “Some of it may be due to obesity, some of it may be due to drug addiction, some of it may be due to distracted driving from cellphones,” Woolf said. Given the breadth and pervasiveness of the trend, “it suggests that the cause has to be systemic, that there’s some root cause that’s causing adverse health across many different dimensions for working-age adults.”… The risk of death from drug overdoses increased 486% for midlife women between 1999 and 2017; the risk increased 351% for men in that same period. Women also experienced a bigger relative increase in risk of suicide and alcohol-related liver disease…. The report reveals a broad erosion in health, with no single “smoking gun,” said Ellen Meara, a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice…. The average life expectancy in the United States fell behind that of other wealthy countries in 1998 and since then, the gap has grown steadily. Experts refer to this gap as America’s “health disadvantage.”… “This isn’t a one-time phenomenon,” he added. “It’s going to echo through time.”


bottom of page