Princeton University Study Finds Increase in Middle-Age Mortality for Whites, But Not for Blacks

princeton-university-logoTypically, studies on racial disparities in public health show that Black Americans tend to trail White American on most indicators of well-being. But a new study by researchers at Princeton shows that white middle-aged Americans have seen overall mortality rates increase over the past 15 years due to drugs and alcohol abuse, suicide, chronic liver disease, and cirrhosis. This turnaround in mortality reverses decades of progress in lowering middle-age mortality. The researchers note that there has been no increase in middle-age mortality among African Americans.

The study found that between 1978 and 1998, the mortality rate for White, middle-aged (ages 45 to 54) Americans declined by 2 percent a year on average. After 1998, things changed. Death rates among middle-aged White non-Hispanic Americans began to rise at a steady clip of half a percent per year. For non-Hispanic, middle-aged African-Americans, mortality rates declined 2.6 percent per year.

The research was conducted by Anne Case, the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, and Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel laureate in economics and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of International Affairs at Princeton. The paper, “Rising Morbidity and Mortality in Midlife Among White Non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st Century,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It may be downloaded by clicking here.

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