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Working-Age Americans Are Dying at Much Higher Rates Than Peers in Other Wealthy Nations
  • Posted March 22, 2024

Working-Age Americans Are Dying at Much Higher Rates Than Peers in Other Wealthy Nations

Working stiffs in the United States are dying at higher rates than those in other wealthy nations, a new study finds.

Death rates among working-age Americans are 2.5 times higher than the average of other high-income countries, researchers report in the March 21 issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology.

These deaths among people ages 25 to 64 are being driven by car crashes, homicides, suicides, drug overdoses and other highly preventable causes, researchers said.

For example, drug-related deaths increased up to tenfold between 2000 and 2019, a trend diverging dramatically from other countries.

‘Over the past three decades, midlife mortality in the U.S. has worsened significantly compared to other high-income countries, and for the younger 25- to 44-year-old age-group in 2019 it even surpassed midlife mortality rates for Central and Eastern European countries,” said researcher Katarzyna Doniec, a postdoctoral researcher with the Leverhulme Center for Demographic Science at the University of Oxford.

“This is surprising, given that not so long ago some of these countries experienced high levels of working-age mortality, resulting from the post-socialist crisis of the 1990s,” Doniec added in a university news release.

For the study, researchers used annual death data gathered by the World Health Organization between 1990 and 2019. The data included 15 major causes of death in 18 high-income countries, including the United States, the U.K. and seven central and eastern European nations.

Most of these countries have experienced significant declines in midlife deaths during the last three decades, researchers found.

However, improvements in the U.S. were slower and interrupted by periods of plateau and even setback, depending on age and sex, researchers said.

In particular, younger U.S. women ages 25 to 44 did poorly. They were the only group across 25 countries to have higher death rates in 2019 than in 1990.

The study didn't include the years of the pandemic, during which the life expectancy gap between the United States and its peer nations widened even further, researchers said.

The U.K. and Canada also experienced increases in midlife mortality during the three decades studied, researchers said.

"The causes of this worsening health will be important to understand going forward," said lead researcher Jennifer Dowd, deputy director of the Leverhulme Center for Demographic Science.

More information

Harvard Medical School has more on life expectancy in the United States.

SOURCE: University of Oxford, news release, March 20, 2024

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