The US spends the most money on healthcare than any country in the world. Despite this, new studies have released a bleak diagnosis: young people are dying. The Journal of the American Medical Association published the report detailing mortality rates seeing an unprecedented regression in young adults ages 25-64.
In the past 60 years, with the progress of medicine and an increase in health, this age bracket has only seen an extension in life expectancy—that is until the last decade.
The now decrease in life expectancy is seen across gender, racial and ethnicity according to Washington Post. The most aggressive increase in death rate is a 29% rise in deaths among ages 25 to 34.
Lead of the report, Steven H. Woolf, Director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at VCU had this to say of the grim new patterns in the longevity of young people: “It’s supposed to be going down, as it is in other countries. The fact that that number is climbing, there’s something terribly wrong.”
These numbers cause many to ask the obvious question, why? What is the cause of this rapid increase in what researchers call “excessive” death: dying decades before one should, in the prime of life?
The report notes the leading causes of death from suicide, drug overdose, obesity, liver disease which have seen major increases in recent years. For example, the majority of the US population is overweight, accounting for 71.6% of adults 20 and up the CDC reports. 39.3% of the group are obese and 19% of children are as well. Today, the average woman weighs as much as the average man did 50 years ago.
The American Medical Association also notes the opioid crisis as a major contributor in drug overdoses. However, this still discounts the conclusion of a single cause of the national mortality crisis. Woof notes the breadth of causes possibly informs us of a deeper issue: “it suggests that the cause has to be systemic, that there’s some root cause that’s causing adverse health across many different dimensions for working-age adults.”
Researchers generally agree that this study unearths overarching pains in society leading to the abuses of drugs, personal health and mental wellness.
Ellen Meara, a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical has this to say as noted in Washington Post: “There’s something more fundamental about how people are feeling at some level—whether it’s economic, whether it’s stress, whether it’s deterioration of family. People are feeling worse about themselves and their futures, and that’s leading them to do things that are self-destructive and not promoting health.”
The evidence of a deeper existential crisis underlying this mortality spike appears to be mounting by the day. A study released years ago noted the increase in addiction, mental illness, suicidal thoughts in adults with a high school diploma as a “sea of despair.”
Researchers don’t believe we can expect to see a reversal in this trend anytime soon. “This isn’t a one-time phenomenon. It’s going to echo through time,” says S. Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.