US death rate increasing at an alarming rate — and it’s race fluid


Joel C. Bautista | The Ticker

Farah Javed, Managing Editor

According to a study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association on Nov. 26, the U.S. death rate has increased for Americans aged 25-64 since 2014.

Regardless of gender, race or geographic location, the average United States age at death has fallen from 78.6 years in 2017 to 76.99 years in 2019, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Researchers focused on deaths between the ages 25-64 years which were stratified by “sex, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geography.” They used published data and research spanning from Jan. 1990 through Aug. 2019 that detailed mortality rates and used it to determine what may have contributed to the increase.

After examining the U.S. population over a 29-year period, the researchers cited “suicides, drug overdoses and alcoholism [as] the main causes,” as well as “other medical conditions, including heart disease, strokes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”

It is no coincidence that the increasing number of deaths since 2014 happens to be in the same areas that were most affected by the opioid crisis beginning in the 2000.  The largest increases in mortality rates occurred in New England and the Ohio Valley.

Concurrently, in these areas manufacturing jobs have disappeared along with mills, shrinking the middle class and causing increasing economic inequality.

This uncertain and stressful time produced citizens more susceptible to drugs, desperately seeking out a high in such low times.

Over the last decade within the Midwestern and Eastern drug supply, the synthetic drug known as fentanyl has been mixed into heroin — or in some cases has replaced it, according to The New York Times. This has made the drug supply deadlier since it is difficult for users to know exactly what they are taking. As a result, addiction overdoses and suicides have risen in the wake of the drug epidemic.

Equally problematic is the fact that as more Americans are dying, more are also not being born.

As the death rate increases, the birth rate in the United States has been steadily falling for the past four years.

The abortion rate is also at the lowest it has ever been, even lower than in “1973 when Roe v. Wade made abortion legal across the country,” according to Planned Parenthood.

This low rate is due to the fact that pregnancies have decreased since birth control became more readily accessible after the Obama Administration enacted the Affordable Care Act.

Though beneficial that the teen birth rate for “girls between the ages of 15 and 19, fell seven percent” in 2019, each of these factors culminate to stagnation in repopulation. This coupled with the increasing death rate, can lead to the long-term effect of a sparse population.

Though the U.S. death rate has been increasing, the hope to decrease the death rate is very much alive. An important fact supporting this idea is that some groups in the United States are not as impacted by the ever-deafening death knell.

Doctor Sam Harper, an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal, highlights that “certain groups, such as Hispanics and Asians, are doing O.K. It’s not like the entire country is being subsumed by a single social phenomenon that can explain all of this.” The more coastal areas of the United States were also found not to be vulnerable to the increasing death rate.

These factors show that it is possible to bring the death rate down. Researchers can study these thriving groups and areas to determine how they are remaining immune to the increased mortality rate. The study does not give any insight as to how to combat the issue, but it supports the idea that the population will dwindle in numbers if the death rate is addressed soon.

Scientists believe that a focus on healthcare could remedy the increasing mortality rate, as reported by LiveScience. The United States spends more on healthcare than any other nation in the world at a whopping $3.5 trillion, but the results are clearly not as fruitful as expected.

Howard Koh, a member of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, pointed out how for other countries “health is much more than what happens in a doctor’s office. It starts where people live, learn, labor and pray.” Here in the United States, healthcare ends outside of hospitals, and there is a lack of health-related social services.

The Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook also revealed that the nation is included in the 75% of countries that have a high infant mortality rate, with the United States’ being 5%. Though this number is relatively low, it is monumental in terms of contributing to the already increasing death toll per year.

Overall, the study underscores how urgent the rising death rate is. With fewer children being born and ailments from heart disease to addiction continuing to plague the nation,  it is up to the United States to devise a healthcare plan effective enough to wrangle the mortality rate before it is too late.