The precipitous rise in “deaths of despair”—the collective term of-late assigned to suicide, alcohol, and drug overdose deaths—among middle-aged, poorly educated whites, has been covered at length since Anne Case and Angus Deaton first drew attention to it in 2015. Commentators, drawn in part by evocative terminology, have linked this increase to a host of social and spiritual ills.
I’ve been skeptical of both Case and Deaton’s work and the more general idea that “deaths of despair” names a single underlying crisis, rather than several discrete increases in cause of death categories. That said, much analysis of the social determinants of these crises remains undone. We know that pharma over-prescription seeded the drug portion of the crisis, and that worsening economic conditions in the heartland exacerbated it. But how do changing social conditions shape it?
This piece originally appeared here on Institute for Family Studies
Charles Fain Lehman is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. Follow him on Twitter here.
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