Deconstructing “Deaths of Despair”

In recent years, headline-grabbing research has highlighted mortality increases among less-educated, non-Hispanic whites driven by suicide, cirrhosis of the liver, and fatal opioid-related overdoses.

These “deaths of despair” findings resonated in the press, but this trend has been building for decades and is not confined to whites, argue Peter A. Muennig and colleagues.

The opioid crisis, for example, follows an HIV and crack syndemic among blacks. Both crises are contextualized by declines in well-being and higher mortality rates among Americans compared to their foreign peers: “the attention given to Whites is distracting researchers and policymakers from much more serious, longer term structural problems that affect all Americans,” they argue.

AJPH


 

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