America Is Failing the Bad-Break Test and People Are Dying — Science of Us

“I think we should be very concerned,” Case told Lenny Bernstein of the Washington Post. “This is singular. This doesn’t happen.” When Case and Deaton released their finding, they argued that it was largely attributable to disturbing upticks in various forms of — opioids, most importantly — as well as suicide. The new statistics get more granular, and they suggest the misery is well-dispersed: There were increases in just about every major cause of death between 2014 and 2015, and the death-rate increases centered on whites and black men — they remained flat for Latinos and for black women. People are dying for a lot of reasons, but drugs stand out as a particularly devastating part of the problem: In fact, one key to the racial divide may also come from numbers released yesterday, these from the CDC: For the first time ever, more people died from heroin overdoses than from gun homicides in 2015.

 

Yesterday, the National Center for Health Statistics released a report that should further puncture the myth of American superiority when it comes to health outcomes — and which should set alarm bells loudly clanging for anyone worried about how the country treats its most vulnerable residents. The report found that life expectancy in the United States dropped from 78.9 in 2014 to 78.8 in 2015, the first drop in life expectancy since 1993. (For men, the decline was from 76.5 to 76.3; for women, from 81.3 to 81.2.)

 

It was a shocking finding that garnered numerous headlines, the sort of thing that just isn’t supposed to happen in a rich, developed country, let alone the richest developed country. And it lent credence to what some public-health researchers and other societal observers had been saying for a while: The United States likes to view itself as a singular force of prosperity and opportunity, but by many public-health metrics — including infant and preventable deaths and a variety of others — it doesn’t look like a top-tier world power.

 

About a year ago, the husband-and-wife team of Anne Case and Angus Deaton published some alarming numbers: Unlike citizens of just about every other wealthy, advanced country, and most other American subgroups, middle-aged white Americans have not seen reductions in their mortality between 1999 and 2013, and had by many metrics been getting sicker and sicker.

 

At 56, Foy was broke, jobless and living with her older sister in public housing in Kansas City, Mo. … Recently, she had been told by a manager at a Victoria’s Secret that there was no need to leave her résumé. But not too long ago, she wanted me to know, she was pulling in $1,000 a week at a Merle Norman makeup store, helping other people look and feel their best. But then she took in her brother to try to help him overcome an addiction, and soon she was pulled under financially as he spiraled out of control. She would show up to work too overwhelmed and exhausted to make any sales, and had to dip into her savings until that was gone. She begged to borrow against her next paycheck but eventually lost her apartment and moved into a friend’s spare room. […] “I tried to get Obamacare,” Foy recalls. “I called the number, and when the woman told me what it would cost me, I just about dropped the phone. She told me I’d needed to make at least $12,000 a year for there to be any help to make it something I might be able to afford. Which still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, even now, that having no money meant I got no help when I really needed it.”

 

 

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