‘Deaths of despair’ rising among middle-aged whites
    April 3 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

    A pair of Princeton University researchers released a new report that reveals an alarming increase in the number of “deaths of despair” among white, middle-aged, blue-collar Americans.

    Images from “Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century”
    *Deaths per 100,000 people

    The statistics are concerning, said Brian Upshaw, Disciple-Making Team Leader for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), but churches can offer hope to the hopeless.
    While mortality rates are decreasing in large sectors of the global population, the study says deaths caused by drug overdoses, alcohol related liver diseases and suicides are increasing in “extraordinary” and “unanticipated” ways among white Americans ages 50-54 with a high school diploma or less.
    Anne Case and Angus Deaton presented “Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century” at a March 23-24 macroeconomics conference hosted by the Brookings Institution.
    The number of “deaths of despair” among the group more than doubled from 1999-2015, according to their analysis. All-cause deaths are slightly increasing among whites, while mortality rates among blacks and Hispanics have fallen over the same period.
    Case and Deaton said part of the general increase in white mortality is due to the sharp uptick in “deaths of despair.”
    They also said the recent opioid epidemic in the U.S. has been an “accelerant” to the growing problem.

    The hardest hit states have been Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi, but North Carolina’s mountain and coastal regions contained some of the highest mortality rates due to drugs, alcohol and suicide. The only states with decreasing general mortality rates are New York, New Jersey and California.
    Some of the statistical data came from a 2015 study by the two researchers, but the latest report explored the underlying causes of mortality.

    Images from “Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century”
    *Deaths per 100,000 people

    Case and Deaton said the disturbing trend could be fueled by long-term “cumulative disadvantage” for people without a college degree.
    “There really is a decline of the American working class,” Deaton said in a video accompanying the report.
    “The people who are really getting hammered are people with less education,” said Case.
    “It’s almost as if there are two Americas, one for people who went to college and one for people who didn’t.”
    Case and Deaton said decades of wage stagnation has bred a sense of hopelessness, which can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, as well as suicide.
    Other negative social developments contribute to the problem too, such as a decline in marriage stability and a decrease in religious community involvement.
    A pre-conference draft of the presentation said, “Traditional structures of social and economic support slowly weakened; no longer was it possible for a man to follow his father and grandfather into a manufacturing job, or to join the union. Marriage was no longer the only way to form intimate partnerships, or to rear children.
    “People moved away from the security of legacy religions or the churches of their parents and grandparents, towards churches that emphasized seeking an identity, or replaced membership with the search for connections … These changes left people with less structure when they came to choose their careers, their religion, and the nature of their family lives. When such choices succeed, they are liberating; when they fail, the individual can only hold him or herself responsible. In the worst cases of failure, this is a [societal] recipe for suicide.”
    Upshaw said local churches can counter the bleak outlook of what the authors call “cumulative disadvantage” among this group by offering “the right narrative of hope, which is found in the gospel.”
    He admitted, however, that churches have not always achieved that goal: “This overall sentiment of despair, I think, is linked in some way to discipleship deficits in the church.”
    People will not find satisfaction in drugs, alcohol or suicide, Upshaw added. “Their hope is in the gospel that addresses their brokenness. From a place of brokenness, we are usable, we are useful to Christ, because it’s in our weakness that he is made strong.”
    Upshaw encouraged churches to utilize BSC resources in their efforts to serve people in midlife, along with their families.
    Visit baptistsonmission.org and ncbaptist.org to learn about ministries like Baptists on Mission, a disaster relief and missions auxiliary, and Faith at Home, a family-based disciple-making ministry.

    4/3/2017 4:24:38 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments
    Filed under: Medicine, Suicide

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