A new study conducted by two Princeton economists, showed that white middle-aged Americans are dying at an alarming rate, mostly due to addictions and mental health issues.

Angus Deaton, who just a month ago was awarded with the 2015 Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Science, and Anne Case studied cases between 1999 and 2013, according to the paper published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Among the causes of this deathly rise, researchers found alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, and chronic liver conditions, stating that these dangerous behaviors lead to worse diseases such as lung cancer.

experts expect that this study pulls the trigger, making radical changes for setting priorities in health research. Image: dyingmatters.org

Analyzing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as other sources, revealed that the causes of this increment were not due to presumed conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, but to a proliferation of substance abuse, overdoses, and suicide.

Deaton and Case said that they “tumbled on their finding by accident, looking at a variety of national data sets on mortality rates and federal surveys that asked people about their levels of pain, disability, and general ill health,” according to the Seattle Times.

Looking at statistics about suicide and poor health, both scientists correlated their findings to the middle-age group, as they looked for other conditions such as drugs and alcohol abuse to get a complete picture of the situation. Authors pointed out that no other “rich country” shares this trend, as the death rates for black and Hispanic Americans, in the same age group, are also escalating.

Numbers shown by demographic analysis say that the decline on education, health, and economic positions are the detonator of these consequences. Results say that the mortality for white Americans aged 45 to 54 and having only high-school education, increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.

Moreover, the authors warn about the economic consequences of these results, as they say that probably, these middle-aged people were eligible for Medicare. Being in worse health state that the current elderly population, the cost of care could get more expensive.

The proliferation of mental health conditions, as well as the lack of proper treatment, could be the cause of the “recent otherwise puzzling decrease in labor-force participation in the United States, particularly among women,” the authors said. This causes stress, due to the difficult of being productive, leading to self-destructive behavior.

Also, failing to successfully socialize is another factor that leads to mental illness and even chronic pain, as the study shows. Deaton said, “we had the two halves of the story: increases in mortality rates in middle-aged whites rose in parallel with their increasing reports of pain, poor health and distress,” according to the Seattle Times.

Nevertheless, further research is need to unveil why chronic pain, unhealthy behaviors and suicide are getting alarmingly frequent among middle-aged white Americans, as it is becoming one of the most concerning health issues in the U.S.

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences