American Death Rates From Drugs, Alcohol and Mental Disorders Triples Since 1980

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2016 delivered some sobering, if necessary, wake-up calls to Americans. When it comes to our long-lasting health we, as a nation, need to become more pro-active. After 22 years of a steady increase, our life expectancy has dropped and our death rate is up for the first time in a decade.

Now a new study from the University of Washington, Seattle, shows that American death rates caused by drugs, alcohol and mental disorders has TRIPLED since the early 1980s.

The research, published in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA), examined death rates between 1980 and 2014 and analysed how they had changed in every U.S. county during that period. Types of fatality were divided into 21 groups, ranging from chronic illnesses (diabetes), to infectious diseases (HIV), to accidents (traffic incidents).

The purpose of the study was to identify differences in the leading causes of death across the country. Depending on where you live might determine the likelihood – statistically speaking – of succumbing to a specific fatality. Approximately 50% of US counties saw increases in suicide and violence for example, while the other half of counties experienced decreases.

Upwards of 2,000 US counties saw increases of 200% or more in deaths related to substance abuse and mental disorders since 1980. That’s a huge rise.

Mortality rates from alcohol and drug use and mental health disorders are highly variable. They showed the greatest increases in Clermont County, Ohio (2,206%), and Boone County, West Virginia (2,030%), and the largest drops in Aleutians West Census Area, Alaska, and Miami-Dade County, Florida, declining by 51% and 45%, respectively.

“While the leading causes of death are similar across counties, we found massive disparities in the rates at which people are dying among causes and communities,” explained lead author Laura Dwyer-Lindgren. “For causes of death with effective treatments, inequalities in mortality rates spotlight areas where access to essential health services and quality of care needs to be improved.”

However, despite the differences signifying a drastic increase in substance abuse across the country, causing more premature deaths than thirty years prior, the biggest cause of death in the United States remains cardiovascular disease.

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