By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer usually come to mind when you think of the major life-shortening health risks for middle-aged people. But, according to Princeton economists, these diseases don’t account for a recent rise in the death rate of middle-aged white Americans. What does? After analyzing health and mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case concluded that three other factors are behind the increased rate of death in this population: suicides, drug abuse, and alcoholism.
Higher Death Rate Linked to Education Level
By the time they reach middle age, poorly-educated white Americans are dying at such a high rate that they have upped the mortality rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans. For whites 45 to 54 years old who had no more than a high school education, the death rate rose by 22 percent, with an increase of 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014. Conversely, for middle-aged white Americans with a college education, the mortality rate fell.
As for other groups, the mortality rate for middle aged blacks – 518 per 100,000 – is unfortunately still higher than for middle-aged whites – 415 per 100,000. The rate for middle-aged Hispanics is much lower than the other groups, at 262 per 100,000. For younger and older people of all races and ethnic groups, the rate of death also dropped.
Substance Abuse Increasing Suicides, Alcoholism Deaths and Drug Overdoses
Noting “that middle-aged whites were committing suicide at an unprecedented rate,” Dr. Deacon’s team found through further discovery that substance abuse appeared to be a driving force behind the rising suicide rate, as well as and overdoses of heroin and prescription pain-killers.
Alcohol/drug abuse is a known risk factor for suicide; it can cause users to have thoughts of suicide that they may indeed carry out. Alcoholism was also linked to an increase in deaths due to alcoholic liver disease. Alcoholic liver disease occurs when fat deposits itself in liver cells, disrupting liver function. It is caused by heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages.
The Need for Preventative Health Education Is Clearer than Ever
I have to say that this is unfortunate and tragic news. But honestly, I’m not surprised. Although the study has no clear-cut answer for these alarming statistics, I believe it has to do with a lack of education in our country about preventive health, coupled with a soaring increase in toxic prescription pain-killers. All of this creates a perfect storm for poor and declining health among the middle-aged and the resulting despair and mental distress.
Alcohol consumption and prescription drug use are on my hit list of toxins to avoid. Alcohol is broken down in the body and converted to acetaldehyde, a poison that is a close cousin to formaldehyde and the most toxic metabolite of alcohol metabolism. Prescription narcotics and other drugs have side effects that are often dismissed by doctors and grossly under-reported. Pharmaceutical drugs also deplete the body of nutrients. Heroin is a killer – period.
My Bottom Line
If you’re in this vulnerable age group (or any age group for that matter!), practice my 6 Pillars of health:
1. Stick to a non-inflammatory diet.
2. Exercise – it’s the best way to detoxify the body.
3. Detoxify by avoiding toxic chemicals in the environment, reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption and getting off narcotics of all kinds, with help from your doctor.
4. Take targeted nutritional supplements.
5. Delve into mind-body medicine to alleviate emotional stress. This might involve doing yoga or tai chi, or seeing a mental health therapist.
If anyone close to you has contemplated suicide, get him or her help right away.
- Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds. New York Times. Nov 2, 2015.
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