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Substance Abuse, Suicide Only Partly to Blame for Middle-Aged Whites' Higher-Than-Expected Mortality

A lack of progress since 1999 against common illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disease was largely responsible for higher-than-expected death rates for middle-aged white adults in 2014, a new Commonwealth Fund study finds. While substance abuse and suicide rates increased during the same period, they did not increase enough to explain why death rates for this group have deviated from their historical decline.

The study, by The Commonwealth Fund’s David Squires and David Blumenthal, M.D., also looked at whites’ higher-than-expected death rates on a state-by-state basis. Trends in the South are particularly worrisome: in West Virginia, for example, whites between ages 45 and 54 are dying at the highest rates seen since 1980.

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