Diseases of Despair: The Plight Of Some Americans

Diseases of Despair: The Plight Of Some Americans

Modern life isn’t as convenient as many of us would like to believe. We are constantly in a rush and doing multiple things at once when life’s modern contrivances should have lessened our burdens, so we have more time to rest and relax. However, that is obviously not the case. Life wears most Americans out leaving them stressed, depressed and more likely to succumb to diseases.

While diseases recognized by science are usually the major concern, there are other conditions (often undiagnosed and likely to affect mental health) can also cripple a person and put them in pain like a real disease does. Experts now recognize a crippling disease that should raise warning signals among White Americans because many already succumbed to it and lost their lives in the process.

In rich countries, death rates are supposed to decline. But in the past decade and a half, middle-aged white Americans have actually been dying faster. Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton first pointed out this disturbing trend in a 2015 study that highlighted three “diseases of despair”: drugs, drinking and suicide. 

On Thursday, the pair released a deeper analysis that clears up one of the biggest misconceptions about their earlier research.

The problem of dying whites can’t only be blamed on rising rates of drug overdoses, suicides and chronic alcoholism, they say. More and more, middle-aged white Americans are dying for all kinds of reasons — and the underlying issue may have less to do with opioids and more to do with how society has left behind the working class.

“Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high school educated, working class after its heyday in the 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline,” they write.

And here is a theory as to why the mortality rate among White Americans is increasing:

So the theory comes back to despair. Case and Deaton believe that white Americans may be suffering from a lack of hope. The pain in their bodies might reflect a “spiritual” pain caused by “cumulative distress, and the failure of life to turn out as expected.” If they’re right, then the problem will be much harder to solve. Politicians can pass laws to keep opioids out of people’s hands or require insurers to cover mental health costs, but they can’t turn back the clock to 1955.

(Via: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/03/24/the-disease-killing-white-americans-goes-way-deeper-than-opioids/?utm_term=.2ffb328419fa)

And a more detailed explanation as to why this phenomenon is happening is this:

Since the early 1970s, people without a college degree have had fewer good career opportunities, stagnant wages, shrinking unions, declines in church membership, and fewer marriages. “These changes left people with less structure when they came to choose their careers, their religion, and the nature of their family lives,” Case and Deaton wrote. “When such choices succeed, they are liberating; when they fail, the individual can only hold him or herself responsible.”

“Cumulative distress, and the failure of life to turn out as expected is consistent with people compensating through other risky behaviors such as abuse of alcohol, overeating, or drug use,” they wrote.

“Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high school educated, working class after its heyday in the early 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline.”

(Via: https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/deaths-of-despair-white-working-class-americans-are-dying?utm_term=.iudl5P0Rk#.ylkl4DY8g)

So, what is the takeaway here? We should always listen to what our parents say. It all boils down to that. Parents know best, right? And almost every parent only wants the best for their children, including a good education. If there is one thing that is clearly the reason for the despair felt by many Americans that even cost them their lives – it is the lack of education that deprived them of opportunities and the knowledge and skills to help them adapt to a changing society. So, they resorted to drugs and drinking until they felt hopeless enough to take away their own lives.

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