20 MAR 2018

Rising Death Rate of Young White Adults Driven by Drug Overdoses

Drug Overdose Deaths

Drug overdoses have been on the rise throughout the United States for several years now, so its continued rise, although very upsetting, is not particularly surprising. However, the epidemic does look a little different today from a few years ago. Drug overdose deaths are sharply driving up mortality among young white adults all over the country to a level not seen since the AIDS epidemic more than 20 years ago. At the same time, the number of African American drug deaths have been dropping, according to the New York Times’ analysis of related death certificates.

The New York Times analyzed almost 60 million death certificates that had been collected by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention for the 24 years from 1990 to 2014. The analysis revealed that death rates for non-Hispanic whites were either rising or plateauing for all adult age groups under 65-years-old. The sharpest rise was seen among women. The same analysis showed that mortality among African Americans and Hispanics continues to drop.

Now that the death rate among white adults aged 25 to 34-years-old, it makes this group the first generation since the Vietnam War years (mid 1960s) to have more deaths in their adult generation than those of the previous generations. This could be tied, in part, to economic hardships that many people have experienced over the past decade. The death rate among white Americans rose the fastest and most for people who are less educated, going up as much as 23 percent for those who do not have a high school education, whereas those with a college degree or higher saw a rise of only 4 percent.

Regardless of education and financial status, the mortality rate for white Americans has skyrocketed all around. Overdose deaths among white people aged 25 to 34-years-old increased five-fold from 1999 to 2014. The overdose death rate for the next age group, those aged 35 to 44-years-old, also went up by 300 percent, which counts both illegal and prescription drugs.

Researchers have been struggling to pinpoint the cause of the drug abuse and overdose epidemic that is gripping the country, across all ages and races. The recent findings regarding the spike in drug overdose deaths among white Americans just continue to cloud the situation. Why is this demographic performing so poorly on this measure? Although there are no conclusive findings, many speculate that the rise of poverty and lifestyle stresses have greatly contributed to the rise in drug overdose deaths in this group, as it often is with most demographics.