Behavioral health issues during middle age are lowering Americans life expectancies - Sovereign Health Group
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Behavioral health issues during middle age are lowering Americans life expectancies

In the 20 years between 1978 and 1998, the mortality rate for white people in the United States dropped by approximately 2 percent each year during 1978-1998. The rate matched the numbers in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Sweden. After 1998, the mortality rate in these countries sustained the 2 percent per year fall. However, in the U.S., the mortality rate for white, non-Hispanic began to rise at the rate of half a percent per year. The U.S. was the only wealthy country where the mortality rate was increasing. This has been revealed in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel Laureate in economics and co-author of the paper said, “About 40 times the Ebola stats. You’re getting up there with HIV-AIDS.”

The reason for the increase in deaths is not diseases like diabetes and heart disease. The culprits are suicide, alcohol and drug poisoning, and alcohol-related liver disease. People with the least amount of formal education fared the worst, observed the paper. Middle-aged Americans with a high school diploma or less had an increase of 134 deaths per 100,000 people between 1999 and 2013, while for those with some college education the death rate fell slightly.

The same demographic group also reported poorer health, with one-third having chronic joint pain. Several factors in recent years have affected the health of this age group. Drug overdose deaths increased 11 times between 1990 and 2010 among white people, aged 45 to 64. Another interesting statistic is that 90 percent of those using heroin for the first time are white.

Opioids are highly addictive and a person can become opioid dependent. When no further prescriptions are available, heroin takes the place of opioids that is easily available on the streets and is less expensive than painkillers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol poisoning is responsible for the deaths of 2,200 Americans every year, 75 percent of them are adults aged 35 to 64. In addition, the life expectancy for white, poorly educated females has declined so much in 18 years that it is anticipated they will die five years earlier than their mothers did.

Financial woes can lead to addiction

Various researchers have suggested that financial difficulty can be a reason for addiction. Turning to drugs or alcohol can be a form of relief from all the stress and strain. A large number of Americans in their middle age have little or no savings, which increases their problems as they have to keep working to stay afloat. In addition, if an individual is unemployed it brings in a sense of insecurity since there is no regular income and also disconnects them from their social network, which they could try to counter by turning to illicit substances.

Deaton and his study co-author economist Anne Case said, “After the productivity slowdown in the early 1970s and with widening income inequality, many of the baby-boom generation are the first to find, in midlife, that they will not be better off than were their parents.”

The pair said that folks in other countries also faced similar problems but they were not dying like American middle-aged people. According to them, one of the reasons could be pensions guaranteed in other countries that ease the burden of financial worry and potential disaster.

In a 2015 article, Dr. Case found that middle-aged people were witnessing more pain in recent years than in the past. And this could mean opioids which can be a reason for addiction.

Seeking treatment

Sovereign Health treats behavioral health issues including addiction and mental disorder. Our PRIME program specializes in the unique needs of mature men to ensure that they receive the best chance at a lasting recovery. Call our 24/7 helpline to learn more.

About the author

Veronica McNamara is a content writer for Sovereign Health. She is a former registered nurse who enjoys writing about the causes and treatment of addictions and behavioral health disorders. She is a proponent of further public education on the subject of mental illness which, unfortunately, still bears an unwarranted stigma. For more information and other inquiries on this article, contact the author at

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