Why Is The Death Rate Among Middle Aged Whites Rising? The Answer May Surprise You.

With the steady advance of medicine, we’ve grown used to news reports that death rates are falling. But the New York Times, among other news outlets, reported in an article this week that there is one group of people that isn’t true of: middle aged white Americans.

“Something startling is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.”

Why is the death rate among this group rising? It’s not because of heart disease or diabetes but because of suicide and substance abuse specifically alcohol, pain killers, and heroin.

The experts were shocked at the findings.

“Wow,” said Samuel Preston, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on mortality trends and the health of populations, who was not involved in the research. “This is a vivid indication that something is awry in these American households.”

Dr. Deaton had but one parallel. “Only H.I.V./AIDS in contemporary times has done anything like this,” he said.

Ronald D. Lee, professor of economics, professor of demography and director of the Center on Economics and Demography of Aging at the University of California, Berkeley, was among those taken aback by what Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case discovered.

“Seldom have I felt as affected by a paper,” he said. “It seems so sad.”

It’s worth noting that the increasing death rates only applied to those limited to a high school education or less. The death rate among the same age group with a college education actually fell.

A friend emailed encouraging me to watch a segment from this past Sunday’s 60 Minutes called Heroin in the Heartland. More and more middle class teenagers are getting hooked on heroin and many are dying of overdoses. These are not typical junkies but kids from good homes and good schools who are athletes, cheerleaders, and honor students.

What do we make of these stories? How do we make sense of people turning to drugs, alcohol, and suicide?

As Dave said this past Sunday, our culture has a soul thirst and the more we try to satisfy that thirst with something other than Jesus, the emptier and emptier we get.

John 4:13-14 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

What is “this water” that Jesus says will make one thirsty again? It’s everything that we look to to make us happy other than Jesus–status, career, appearance, money, reputation, achievement, etc…

The death rates among middle aged whites is growing but it’s not because of diseases or viruses or accidents but moral behavior. In an America in which there is almost daily improvement in health care, abundant medical miracles, new treatments, antibiotics and more, the one thing that the medical profession can’t do is deal with emptiness of people’s lives and the destructive ways people try to fill their soul.

Jesus told us that there’s only one way to find soul satisfaction and that is a deepening relationship with him.

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