Middle-aged, average Americans are not supposed to die at alarming rates. In fact, with increased health care, social programs and a general improvement of self-awareness, the middle class is supposed to live longer than past generations. However, this is not the case. In fact, ten years ago the number of deceased middle-aged Americans started to climb significantly. In an effort to find out why, two economists, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, delved into the numbers and found a surprising correlation.
They found that other statistics were rising along with the death rate. Drug and alcohol use among this demographic were increasing at a similar rate. What was even more interesting was that as these two things were rising, the economy was taking a nose dive. The uncertainty of the financial future could be causing people to give in to depression and succumb to overdoses, alcoholism and suicides, all things contributing to the death rate.
“Whatever it is these people are unhappy, they’re left behind, some of their jobs have gone away, they’re worse off than their parents were, they’re worried about opportunities for their kids,” explained Deaton.
In a separate study, researchers made a connection between the rise of opioid abuse and the rise of unemployment. They found that countries with more unemployed citizens also had higher rates of substance abuse. It appears that connection is so sensitive that a 1% increase in unemployment effects a 3.6% increase in opioid overdoses. In yet another study, this time in China, researchers found that when trade brought about sudden unemployment there were more suicides and drug overdoses. Examined as a group, these studies certainly indicate that people are greatly affected by the tide of the economy.
But, if rise and fall of the economy can bring about such extreme behaviors, maybe health officials, families and loved ones can use this as a predictor. For instance, if it appears that there are less jobs, or unemployment starts to rise, communities can have programs in place for out -of-work professionals that connect them with their peers, therapists if needed and networking tools to get them back in the work force. There can also be more substance abuse prevention programs for adults.
If you have a loved one struggling with drugs or alcohol due to economic stress, contact us today to see how we can help.